Backyard Orchard News
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?
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.