Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
It was delightful hearing UC Davis nutritionist and fitness expert Liz Applegate extol the virtues of honey at the 31st annual Western Apicultural Society (WAS) conference, held recently in Healdsburg.
Like many of you, we've always loved honey. Watching Father tend the bees and extract the honey seemed miraculous. But the end product--the amber-colored honey--this was heaven itself.
Honey, however, is more than just a sweetener.
"I always have my athletes consume honey before and during strenuous exercise,” said Applegate, who directs sports nutrition at UC Davis and serves as nutritionist for the Oakland Raiders.
“I recommend honey--honey should be part of a good refueling strategy,” she said.
Nationally renowned, Applegate is highly sought as a keynote speaker at industry, athletic and scientific meetings. She holds a doctorate in nutrition science from UC Davis, where she teaches undergraduate nutrition classes that exceed a 2,000 enrollment annually. Her enthusiasm and expertise led to a 2009 UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award.
But back to the honey.
Honey, a rich source of carbohydrates, “provides a quick source of energy,” Applegate said. It’s easy to carry (in packets), easy to consume (no chewing), easy to digest and is easily assimilated. Plus, it tastes good, is inexpensive and easily obtainable, she noted.
Unlike most other sweeteners, honey contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants collected from the flowers that bees visit. The list includes niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Honey is also considered an effective antimicrobial agent, used to treat minor burns and scrapes and to soothe sore throats; and as a beauty agent.
And oh, the honey that's available.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty and the 2008-09 president of WAS, says more than 300 different kinds of honey are found worldwide. The color, flavor and fragrance are closely linked to the bees’ floral visits.
Show me the honey.
The Honey People
A tip of the bee veil to Susan Cobey.
Cobey, bee breeder-geneticist and manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, has won the 2009 “Outstanding Service to Beekeeping” award from the Western Apicultural Society (WAS).
Cobey received a plaque at the organization’s 31st annual conference, held last week in Healdsburg.
Known world-wide for her expertise in instrumental insemination and stock improvement, she trained under Harry Laidlaw (1907-2003) of UC Davis, considered “the father of honey bee genetics.”
WAS president and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, presented her the award, praising her expertise, dedication and passion.
Cobey is well-known in the beekeeping industry. Her advanced beekeeping courses on queen bee rearing and queen bee insemination draw students from throughout the world.
“It’s a special honor to receive this award, especially since my return to California,” said Cobey, who participated in the first WAS conferences.
Cobey joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in May 2007, after a career spanning 17 years as staff apiarist at the Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Laboratory, Ohio State University.
Cobey developed the New World Carnolians stock, a dark race of honey bees, in the early 1980s by back-crossing stocks collected from throughout the United States and Canada to create a more pure strain. A current focus of her research includes selecting and enhancing this stock to show increasing levels of resistance to pests and diseases.
Of her research, she says: “Over time, it has proven very productive, winter hardy, well-tempered and more resistant to pests and disease. Genetic diversity, the raw tools for selection, is critical in maintaining colony fitness and resisting pests and diseases.”
She is enhancing the stock, now in its 27th generation, with importation of semen from the German Carnica Association.
Cobey is the 28th person to receive the WAS award, and the sixth from UC Davis. Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. received the award in 1980; Robert Page in 1989; Norman Gary in 1990; Eric Mussen in 1991; and Christine Peng in 2002. Page (now with Arizona State University), Gary and Peng are all emeriti professors.
Mussen and Gary co-founded WAS in 1978 as a non-profit, educational organization designed specifically to meet 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.
What's causing colony collapse disorder (CCD)?
Are we any closer to determining the cause?
CCD, the mysterious malady characterized by bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the brood and food storage, continues to be of great concern--and rightfully so.
The headlines today read:
- Scientists discover virus that could explain drop in bee population--Science News, Timesonline
- DNA clue to honey bee deaths--BBC
A noted expert on honey bees, Mussen is frequently asked "The CCD Question."
What does he think is causing CCD?
"As the pieces are coming together, I think that a still undetermined virus is causing the problem," Mussen says. "The malady appears to be 'contagious' and 'drying' the combs seems to reduce or eliminate it."
"Our bees need to be in top physiological condition. I believe that malnutrition puts a physiological stress on the bees, especially the immune and chemical detoxification systems. Then diseases and exposures to chemicals become very significant."
Beekeepers who do a lot of supplementary feeding, he says, see fewer problems.
So, if you're a beekeeper, place your hives in locations with an abundance of high quality pollens and nectar.
And don't ignore those combs.
"If a beekeeper has them on hand, the bees most likely would be better off on newer, less contaminated (with mite-killing compounds) combs," Mussen says.
How can we help? We can plant trees, ornamentals, and flowers that provide food for the bees. "It's especially important to provide nectar and pollens at the end of the season--late summer and fall," he says. "That's when resources tend to become scarce."
What else can we do? Stop using pesticides on plants that bees visit. "The most suspect group of pesticides at this time are the neonicotinoid insecticides that move systemically in the plants," Mussen says. "They get into the nectar and pollen. However, the fungicides, thought by many to be benign to honey bees, are pretty common contaminants and may be causing more problems than we think."
Meanwhile, the search for the cause(s) of CCD continues.
Entomologists, geneticists and virologists are still searching for the cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Yes, they're still searching, and no, there' s no known cause yet.
CCD is a mysterious phenomonen characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive. They leave behind the brood and stored food.
When we attended the 55th annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America in December 2007, one of the highly attended seminars dealt with the plight of the honey bees. Pennsylvania State University entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp and USDA entomologist Jeff Pettis were among those addressing the crowd.
In research just published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed science publication, they and their colleagues found that a higher total load of pathogens--viruses, bacteria and fungi--appears to show the strongest link yet with CCD.
The researchers examined 91 colonies from 13 apiaries in Florida and California. They screened for bacteria, mites, Nosema (protozoan parasites) numerous viruses, nutrition status and 171 pesticides. They also sampled adult bees, wax comb bee bread (stored and processed pollen) and brood.
"Of 61 quantified variables (including adult bee physiology, pathogen loads, and pesticide levels), no single measure emerged as a most-likely cause of CCDm" they wrote. "Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with a greater number of pathogens than control populations, suggesting either an increased exposure to pathogens or a reduced resistance of bees toward pathogens. Levels of the synthetic acaricide coumaphos (used by beekeepers to control the parasitic mite Varroa destructor) were higher in control colonies than CCD-affected colonies."
Their research, the first comprehensive survey of CCD-affected bee populations, suggests that CCD "involves an interaction between pathogens and other stress factors," they wrote. They presented evidence that CCD is "is contagious or the result of exposure to a common risk factor."
Bottom line: High pathogen loads are linked to CCD symptoms, but scientists still don't know what causes bees to become infected with SO MANY pathogens.
What this research does is narrow the direction of future CCD research. It's a big step in the right direction.
"Help the bees" continues to be a resounding cry. Helping to fund the research is Häagen-Dazs (about 50 percent of their ice cream flavors depend on bee pollination). Those visiting their educational Web site can donate funds to Penn State and UC Davis.
Plight of the Honey Bee
Beekeepers consider stings just a part of their job.
However, say the word "bee" and John Q. and Jane Q. Public may not think about the pollination of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Or the end product: honey.
The bee conjures up the "S" word: sting.
Of the scores of questions that Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen has fielded since 1976 (when he joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty), many relate to bee stings.
Here are his answers to some of the most commonly asked questions:
1. Can a honey bee sting kill you?
If a person is highly sensitized to honey bee venom, one sting could be fatal, causing anaphylactic shock. Otherwise, it is just painful and likely to cause some swelling and local tenderness that will last for two or three days.
2. How do you treat a honey bee sting?
Try to remove honey bee stings as quickly as possible, since venom is pumped from a sting into the victim for 45-60 seconds. Stings are easily scraped off with a fingernail. If many honey bees are stinging, leave the area quickly and deal with the stings when you are out of range of the defensive area (about 100 feet with European honey bees, but up to ¼ mile – 1,320 feet – with Africanized honey bees). The pain can be reduced a bit by putting ice on the sting site, but the stabbing pain backs off fairly quickly without any treatment.
3. Can a honey bee hear you?
Honey bees do not have sensory organs that can pick up sounds that we can hear. They are very sensitive to vibrations. They feel us walking toward the nesting site before we get there.
4. Why do beekeepers use smokers when they visit their beehives?
The smoke from the smoker has three effects on the bees. First, it prevents the guard bees from liberating much “alarm pheromone” (smells like bananas) in the hive. Second, it prevents “soldier” bees in the hive from smelling the pheromone that has been secreted. Third, it causes many bees to fill up on honey. Despite the wives’ tales to the contrary, there is no reason to believe that the bees “think” there is a fire or that bees full of honey cannot sting.
5. Can honey bees see color?
Yes, honey bees can see nearly all the colors we see. They cannot see red, which looks black to them. They can see into the UV wavelengths a ways, which is beyond our limit at purple. UV looks black to us.
6. Do honey bees need to eat meat?
No. Unlike wasps, honey bees derive nearly all the important ingredients in their diet from pollens. Pollens contain protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, sterols, and many plant-derived antioxidants. No single pollen contains all the essential ingredients, so colonies do best where a good mix of attractive flowers are available. Nectar, the dilute sugar syrup honey bees collect from flowers, contains mostly sugar, an energy food. The flavor and color of honey depend upon the source of the nectar from which it is condensed.
There you have it: The A, Bee and C of the most commonly asked questions.
Bottom line: Sure, bees can and do sting, but our survival depends on them. Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat (fruits, vegetables and nuts). They pollinate some 100 crops in California, including about 700,000 acres of almonds.
“The value of California crops pollinated by bees is $6.1 billion,” Mussen says.
Site of the Sting