Backyard Orchard News
Faster than a speeding bullet...
As soon as UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey opened a beehive and removed a chunk of honeycomb to show visitors, here came the speeding bullet. A fast camera shutter caught what the eye couldn't see.
It was a queen yellowjacket taking dead aim at the comb.
"The yellowjacket queen this time of year zeroes in on the honey as soon as you open a hive," said Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
"They build up their populations in the fall and eat the bees for protein to overwinter. They can actually kill bee colonies, especially weak ones. As meat-eating predators, these are common at picnic time, for which honey bees are often unfairly blamed."
Yes, honey bees are indeed unfairly blamed. Like human vegetarians, honey bees don't eat meat. They may land on your soda can for the sugar water, but meat doesn't interest them. They forage for nectar and pollen.
Now yellowjackets--they're predators. They love meats and sweets. You'll see these uninvited guests at your picnic or barbecue, boldly sampling your steak, hamburger or chicken; targeting your can of soda; or scavenging in and around your garbage can.
They also vigorously defend their nests, which look like paper combs. Do not go near their nests.
Their sting is painful. A yellowjacket recently nailed UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen beneath the collar as he was checking the honey bees at the Laidlaw facility.
Mussen noted that beekeepers inadvertently kill a few bees each time they open a hive and pry open the "stuck-together" frames with their hive tool. The dead bees fall to the ground--to the waiting yellowjackets. The yellowjackets then carry the bees off to their nest, chew them into pulp, and feed the "protein" to their brood.
More yellowjackets on the way.
And soon, more speeding bullets.
WAS is not just the first and third person singular past indicative of be.
It's the Western Apicultural Society, an organization dedicated to the science and art of rearing honey bees.
You'll find scores of commericial beekeepers at the 31st annual WAS Conference, scheduled Aug. 17-20 in Healdsburg, Sonoma County. You'll also find native pollinator specialists, university researchers, vendors, and folks just concerned about the declining bee population and what they can do about it.
UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who's been with the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976, co-founded WAS in 1978 with professor Norman Gary (now retired) whose research focused on the biology and behavior of honey bees, and interaction of honey bees with environment.
Last year WAS members trekked to Victoria, B.C., for their annual meeting. This year, it's right in the heart and soul of California Wine Country.
Where else but at a bee conference in Wine Country can you enjoy honey and wine tasting at the same time?
Conference topics include pathogens found associated with bees; breeding, diagnostics and insecticide tolerance; introduction to native bees, native bees in crop production in Eastern states; native bees in crop production in Western states; effects of honey on human physiology, colony natural history, honey and exercise physiology, and beekeeping tips.
Membership in WAS is open to all, Mussen says (dues range from $7.50 to $10 a year). Although worldwide membership is indeed encouraged, the organization was founded to serve the educational needs of beekeepers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon; and the states of northern Mexico.
Healdsburg is definitely the place to bee Aug. 17-20.
Pretty in PInk
“You’re not going to be able to jump on the pomegranate bandwagon with your pockets bulging with gold without a lot of hard work,” Kevin Day, farm advisor with UC Cooperative Extension Tulare County, told a reporter for a news story published May 14 in the Western Farm Press.
Yes, hard work.
Day told Western Farm Press that from 2006 to 2009, the number of acres in California planted with pomegranate trees "has increased from 12,000 or 15,000 acres in 2006, to 29,000 acres in 2009."
“We’ve doubled in three years, and that’s a lot of young pomegranate trees,” he said.
And that's a lot of work for the honey bees, too.
Our "orchard" of one pomegranate tree is buzzing with bees.
Just when we thought they'd forgotten their old buddy--"old" because the pomegranate tree was planted in 1927--here they come in the late afternoon. One by one, two by two, they head for the blossoms to gather the nectar and roll in the pollen of the papery blossoms.
Gold may bulge from the pockets of pomegranate orchardists, but a different kind of gold bulges from the honey bees--pollen.
Get in Line
The competition was fierce.
We're talking 800 postdoctoral scholars on the UC Davis campus, 12 finalists and two winners.
Chemical ecologist Zain Syed, who helped discover the mode of action for the insect repellent DEET in the Walter Leal lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology, emerged as one of the two winners.
The occasion: the sixth annual postdoctoral scholar research awards, sponsored by the UC Davis Postdoctoral Scholars’ Association and the Office of Graduate Studies.
Syed and fellow recipient Izumi Maezawa of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UC Davis Health System, each received a certificate and a $500 cash prize.
So, the next time you’re applying DEET to ward off mosquitoes, you can thank Leal and Syed for why mosquitoes won’t go near you. For the past 50 years, scientists assumed that DEET jams the senses of a mosquito or masks the smell of the host.
Not so. Mosquitoes can smell DEET and they avoid it because it smells bad to them. No jamming. No masking. Just a smell that's not in their comfort zone.
The chemical ecologists identified the olfactory receptor neuron in the antenna that detects the repellent. Their work led to one of the most popular research articles ever published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research paper has been loaded 9317 times from August 2008 through April 2009.
What this research means is we may see a whole new direction in the development of novel and promising insect repellents.
Syed, a native of
“Zain has an an encyclopedic knowledge of the literature and he designs well-thought experiments,” said Leal, also praising him as “a good mentor to students in the department, college and elsewhere on campus.”
“Zain is the type of postdoc that every principal investigator dreams about one day having in their own laboratory,” wrote professor Gabrielle Nevitt of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior,
Entomology professor Penelope Gullan, who supported the nomination, said: "As a faculty member in the same department as Dr. Syed, I have watched his research progress and accomplishments over the past four years. His recent achievements have been truly outstanding in terms of significant research findings and publications in highly rated journals."
A dynamo, a maverick and an inspiration: mosquitoes beware!/st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:placetype>/st1:place>/st1:country-region>/st1:city>/st1:country-region>/st1:place>/st1:country-region>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>
Honey bee geneticist Robert E. Page Jr. is in good company.
Good company, indeed.
Think scientists Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.
Page, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1980 and then became a noted geneticist at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, has just been elected to the oldest scientific academy of science, the Germany Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, which dates back to 1652.
Besides Darwin, Curie and Einstein, the academy membership has included explorer Alexander von Humboldt and author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Overall, some of the most brilliant and innovative minds in physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy and mathematics.
“Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin are my heroes,” said Page. “I am truly honored to belong to an academy that lists them as former members.”
Page is known for his pioneering research in the behavioral genetics of honey. His expertise includes Africanized bees, genetics and evolution of social organization, sex determination and division of labor in insect societies. His work has graced the covers of such respected journals as Naturwissenschaften, Nature, Genome Research, Cell and BioEssays.
Page, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, "officially" retired from UC Davis in 2004, but he didn't stay retired. Arizona State University recruited him that same year to organize three departments (biology, microbiology and botany) into ASU’s
“Rob Page is one of the most gifted scientists, administrators, and teachers I have had the privilege to know in 30 years in academia,” said James Carey, UC Davis professor of entomology and program director of the Biodemographic Determinants of Life Span project, who collaborates with Page. “Those of us who have worked with him congratulate him and are proud to call him our colleague and friend.”
UC Davis chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor and former chair of the Department of Entomology, described Page as “one-of-a-kind: a premier scholar and an exemplary administrator.”
Rob Page's specialized stock of honey bees is legendary, too. It's back at UC Davis.
We first saw these special honey bees when bee breeder-geneticist Michael "Kim" Fondrk, who manages the Page stock, trucked the bees to Dixon to pollinate an almond orchard. The San Francisco Chronicle covered the story. Fondrk opened a hive to point out the queen bee, the worker bees and the drones.
And just as beautiful is the well-deserved honor that honey bee geneticist Robert E. Page Jr. just received./st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:placetype>/o:p>/o:p>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>
Frame of Bees