Backyard Orchard News
That one word aptly describes the generous donation by Gimbal's Fine Candies, San Francisco, to aid honey bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, recently accepted a check for $10,000 from Lance Gimbal, CEO of Gimbal's.
Seeking to help save the bees, company officials expressed concern about the declining bee population. USDA just reported a 29 percent drop in bee population in 2009. “Approximately one-third of our food supply depends on honey bees,” Lance Gimbal said.
The fact is, honey bees are in trouble and we must all do our part to help save the bees. For example, we can plant bee friendly gardens, avoid using pesticides in our garden, take up backyard beekeeping, buy only U.S. honey, and generally raise awareness about the plight of the honey bee.
This is the fourth year of colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive. They just fly off, leaving behind the queen bee, brood and stored food. This year is the worst ever for CCD, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Enter Gimbal's Fine Candies. It just launched Honey Lovers, fruit chews made with natural honey, and will give UC Davis 5 percent of the proceeds for honey bee research.
Said Mussen: “The UC Davis bee biology program is extremely appreciative of the generosity of Gimbal’s Fine Candies. Their contribution will enable us to reach more people with factual information about bees and beekeeping. It also is possible that their support of our research efforts may help uncover better methods of dealing with pests, parasites, and diseases of honey bees and honey bee colonies.”
The allergen-free line of candy is available at Walmart and Fresh & Easy stores, as well as Amazon.com and candydirect.com. Additional stores featuring Honey Lovers will launch this spring.More information on bee research at UC Davis is on the bee biology Web site. More information on Gimbal’s Fine Candies is available from (800) 344-6255 or from its Web site.
Meanwhile, the folks at the UC Davis Department of Entomology are grateful that Gimbal's has stepped forward.
If honey is the "soul of a field of flowers," as someone once said, then businesses and individuals concerned about maintaining healthy bees are "surely the heart."
Check for $10,000
Cherry Blossom Time
It's a picture-perfect day on Thursday, April 1 at Olivarez Honey Bees, Inc. in Orland, Calif.
Susan Cobey's queen bee-rearing class at the University of California, Davis, is touring the bee farm with guide Ray Olivarez Jr., who is explaining his company's production procedures amid gleaming white hives and a grinning mustard field.
An elderly bee--one that survived the winter--lands on a mustard blossom near them. A spring bee, a mere teenager, buzzes in right next to her.
They nectar the blossoms as their ancestors did millions of years ago.
Cobey, a world-renowned bee breeder and geneticist and manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, will be heading back to the Olivarez honey bee farm on Saturday, April 17 for the company's second annual Hobbyist Day. She and Randy Oliver of Grass Valley, a noted bee researcher, writer and commercial beekeeper, will share the speakers' podium from 11 a.m. to noon.
The Hobbyist Day, open to the public, begins at 9 a.m., when beekeepers will pick up their three-pound packages of bees (Italian or New World Carniolans) and glean information at the bee research booths. The day's activities include a barbecue lunch from noon to 1 p.m.; package bee installation demonstration at 1 p.m.; and demonstrations on caging, grafting and cell building from 2 to 3 p.m.
Although this educational event is open to the public, reservations are encouraged (877-865-0298).
Backyard beekeeping is the "in" thing. As the Olivarez family points out: "With a simple colony of honey bees, you can have more and bigger blooms on your flowers; have more sweet goodness from your vegetable garden; enjoy fresh, wholesome honey; and do your part to help save the pollinator."
It's not just about humans. It's about saving the bees, our environment and wildlife. Sometimes we overlook the fact that honey bees pollinate plants that provide food and shelter to wildlife--such as bears that eat blackberries that are pollinated by bees.
And, as the Olivarez family says: "Plants reduce soil erosion and add beauty and color to our world!"
Indeed they do. A field of mustard becomes a field of dreams.
A golden bee on golden mustard.
What could represent spring in California more than that? Well, besides the just-ended almond pollination season.
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, took her queen bee-rearing class to Orland today to tour Olivarez Honey Bees, Inc. While admiring the commercial queen bee-rearing operation, we spotted honey bees foraging on the newly planted mustard.
A beautiful spring day. Mustard plants gently swaying in the breeze. Honey bees gathering food for their hives.
If that doesn't cut the mustard, nothing does.
Honey Bee on Mustard
Who's the Visitor?
It wouldn't dare rain on Susan Cobey's queen bee-rearing classes.
And it didn't today.
Well, a little sprinkle, but that was it.
Her class today included mostly Californians, but some from Oregon, Washington and New Mexico.
She explained all about how to rear queen bees. Tomorrow: a tour of Northern California queen bee producers.
And maybe no rain.
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?