Backyard Orchard News
When the Antioch Charter Academy, a middle school in Contra Costa County, toured the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis on Tuesday, May 4, they learned all about honey bees and native bees.
Tour coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology set up three activity stations, visited by groups of 13.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, talked to them about bee biology, bee communication and colony collapse disorder; Yang and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, discussed bee diversity, bee monitoring, bee identification and foraging behavior; and to top it off, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and Elizabeth Frost displayed bee equipment, discussed the breeding program and then opened several hives.
The students singled out the three castes: queen bee, drones and worker bees. They admired the many different colors of pollen. They gingerly picked up drones (male bees have no stingers).
Then at the urging of Cobey and Frost, the teenagers dipped their fingers into the honey.
Straight from the hive.
Their verdict: "Wow, this is good!"
A taste of honey, a picture of contentment, and a greater admiration for the work of honey bees.
Many Colors of Pollen
A Taste of Honey
It's not the prettiest of plants.
It looks somewhat like a thistle.
No matter. The honey bees love it.
Lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), a leggy three-foot plant with clusters of light blue to purple flowers, attracts not only honey bees but syrphid flies, bumbles bees and other pollinators.
Some folks call it "the honey plant" because it's considered one of the top 20 honey-producing flowers.
Native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, it's an annual that's used as a cover crop and as bee forage. It's especially popular in Europe and in California vineyards.
The Xerces Society recommends that it be planted in the almond orchards to attract pollinators after the almonds finish blooming. The Xerces Society recommends that it be planted along access roads and roadways as a nesting habitat and source of nectar and pollen for early emerging bees.
We planted some in our bee friendly garden to see what it would attract. Last Sunday one of the first insects it drew was an aged honey bee, her thorax worn of hair and her wings ragged.
The slow-moving bee foraged among the delicate blossoms. Indeed, the soft breeze moved faster than she did.
Then, lift off and she was gone.
Up, Up and Away
If you’re a first-year graduate student in entomology, you spend much of your time buried in books or conferring with your major professor.
Emily Bzdyk, who is pursuing her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, does that, too--and more.
She's heavily involved in art.
Two of her art works will be shown at the “Bees at The Bee” art show from 3 to 8 p.m., Saturday, May 8 in the Sacramento Bee’s open courtyard, 2100 Q St. The event, sponsored by The Bee, features bee-themed art from talented artists within a 12-county area.
Art show coordinator Laurelin Gilmore of Sacramento said a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the art will benefit honey bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
In other words, the artists are donating to UC Davis honey bee research.
Emily Bzdyk, a native of Long Island, N.Y. who grew up in Round Hill, Va., said she's always loved insects. “I raised caterpillars and other bugs as a kid.”
In high school, she helped monitor aquatic stream health, and led a team.Then it was on to St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a public honors college, where she majored in biology and minored in studio art and environmental studies. Her senior thesis? A Guide to Native Plants of Historic St. Mary's City, which she also illustrated.
Emily, now working on her doctorate of entomology at UC Davis, is researching “the revision and biological life history of Litomegachile, a subgenus of leafcutter bees found all across the United States."
She works closely with her major professor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and with three other entomologists who form her guidance committee: Tom Zavortink, Robbin Thorp, and Neal Williams.
And art? Emily has pursued art all her life. She photographs insects (and other subjects), creates earrings, sculpts, paints and draws.
”I enjoy any artmaking process--really.”
At St. Mary’s College of Maryland, she honed her skills by enrolling in a scientific illustration course, and interned at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., where she completed a drawing of a beetle, for a new species description, for Alexander Konstantinov.
Last month she finished creating the illustrations for a beginning beekeeping book written by retired UC Davis apiculturist-professor Norman Gary. It will be published later this year.
The May 8 bee art show is Emily Bzdyk's next project. She contributed a framed 8x10 pen-and-ink drawing of a leafcutter bee, Megachile centuncularis, and a framed 8x10 photo, titled "Yellow Bee Face," of a male Valley carpenter bee.
Emily also will offer her bee earrings (below) at the art show--and maybe other items.
A salute to Sacramento Bee and artist Laurelin Gilmore for making this all happen--a benefit for the bees.
The female silkworm moth releases a sex pheromone, bombykol, that's very enticing to the male. He can detect it from miles away.
Now researchers in the UC Davis Department of Entomology have discovered that the fruit fly has a native odorant receptor that detects the silkworm moth’s sex pheromone, and that it’s “amazingly more sensitive” than the moth’s odorant receptor.
Their work could open research doors for insect-inspired biosensors.Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
Their research follows on the heels of another study they published in PNAS in 2006 with the Deborah Kimbrell genetics lab in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences. Bottom line: they found that genetically engineered fruit flies responded to the silkworm moth scent of a female.
Now Leal and Syed have identified the odorant receptor in the male fruit fly that detects the sex pheromone.Ecologist and evolutionary biologist Fred Gould of North Carolina State University, not affiliated with the research, says the work of the UC Davis researchers "provides important guidance and tools for other researchers who want to explore the pheromone communication systems of other species, or who want to further dissect the mechanisms within the specialized hairs of silkworms that enable this high sensitivity.”
What we have here with the silkworm moths and fruit flies is definitely not a "failure to communicate."
Scent of a Female
Bees at The Bee.
Some 60 creative artists will be showing and selling their bee-themed work on Saturday, May 8 at the "Bees at The Bee" art show in the Sacramento Bee's outdoor courtyard, 2100 Q. St.
The event, free and open to the public, will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. It's part of The Bee's annual Second Saturday event.
Art show coordinator Laurelin Gilmore said you'll see acrylic paintings, watercolors, pen and ink drawings, metal and paper sculptures, photographs, fused glass plates, pendants, a fleece blanket, crocheted multimedia, collages, monoprint-woodcut, neckpiece, individually painted CDs, and a scrimshaw engraving on a mammoth ivory.
Lots of other activities are planned, including live music, refreshments and educational displays, including a bee observation hive form UC Davis.
Artists will donate part of the proceeds from the sale of their work to honey bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
One item you'll see is a fused glass plate by scientist-artist Olga Barmina, a staff research associate at the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology. The colorful plate features exquisite flowers--and of course, the beleaguered honey bee, amid hexagonal cells of the hive.
Barmina, who teaches at the UC Davis Crafts Center, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and is a graduate of St. Petersburg State University (degree in biochemistry). “I’ve always been interested in the arts, and I was drawing, painting and sculpting for as long as I can remember myself. I began taking classes in ceramics and oil painting when I was 12. As time passed, I found myself doing less painting, and more and more ceramics – in retrospect, the three-dimensional art had a greater appeal."During her five years at St. Petersburg State University, she had no time for art. Later when she accepted a job at St. Louis University, she took an evening jewelry class and “realized that I found my true medium - metal." Throughout the years, she has improved her skills at fabrication, casting, chain making, stone setting, enameling, and other techniques.
Here's a scientist who enjoys a rewarding career in science and finds pure joy in art.
And in calling attention to the plight of the honey bee.