Backyard Orchard News
It's not too early to start thinking about NPW.
NPW? National Pollinator Week.
They are a key to our global sustainability and food supply. Eighty-percent of the world's crops depend on pollination. Honey bees pollinate about one-third of the food we eat.
Worldwide, we have about 20,000 species of bees, according to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. And California alone, he says, has more than 1600 species. Bees include sweat bees, digger bees, leafcutting bees, bumble bees, and scores of others.
Want to know what to plant in your garden to attract bees and other pollinators? Good sites to read are UC Berkeley's Urban Bee Gardens Web site and the Xerces Society Web site.
Meanwhile, almond blossoms are in full bloom in California. At the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, an almond tree near the apiary is a burst of blossoms and a flash of aromatic fury.
Walk by the tree and you'll see pollen-packing honey bees buzzing around like there's no tomorrow.
We must ensure there will be a tomorrow.
Almond Tree at the Laidlaw Facility
Buds 'n Blossoms
The arthropod community at UC Davis--and beyond--has circled the date, Wednesday, Feb. 24.
It's not just the last Wednesday of the month.
That's when insect biologist Rosemary Gillespie, director of the Essig Museum of Entomology, University of California, Berkeley, and chair of the Berkeley Natural History Museums, will be at UC Davis to speak on "Community Assembly through Adaptive Radiation: Spiders on Islands.”
The seminar, set from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs, Kleiber Drive, is part of the UC Department of Entomology's winter seminar series. Can't make it to Briggs Hall? It will be Webcast live and then archived on the UC Davis Department of Entomology Web site.
“Remote islands are heralded as 'natural laboratories,' with communities largely comprising species that have evolved within the islands as a result of adaptive radiation,” said Gillespie, who is also the Schlinger chair of systematics and professor of organisms and the environment. “I have been studying spiders to elucidate commonalities underlying patterns of adaptive radiation and how communities are filled in such situations.”
“Overall, this research promises insights into the interplay between selection and the biotic environment in the evolution of species within a community,” she said.
Chris Searcy, graduate student in the Population Biology Graduate Group, Center for Population Biology, will introduce Gillespie.
Ian Pearse, graduate student studying with major professor Rick Karban, is coordinating the winter seminars, which began Jan. 6 and continue through March 10.
All seminars are from 12:10 to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. On tap March 3 is Moran Segoli, postdoctoral researcher in the Jay Rosenheim lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology. He will speak on The Importance of Predation in Shaping Desert Communities and Trophic Levels."
On March 10, research chemist John Beck of the USDA Agricultural Research Station, Albany, will speak on "The Search for Non-Pheromonal Volatile Organic Compounds Toward Control of Navel Orangeworm, a Major Insect Pest of California Tree Nuts.”
Under a pilot Webcasting program launched by UC Davis entomology professor James Carey, these entomology seminars are being Webcast by his graduate students, James Harwood and Amy Morice. Not all are Webcast; some speakers requested they not be due to unpublished data.
A Web page lists all the archived seminars. Just click and watch.
Robbin Thorp's many areas of expertise include the amazing diversity of native bees.
He'll discuss their diversity, nesting habits and nest site requirements when he addresses the 2010 Bee Symposium, sponsored by the Santa Rosa-based Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PFSP).The conference, to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, March 7 in the Subud Center, 234 Hutchins Ave., Sebastopol, will offer updates and new perspectives on honey bees and native pollinators.
Thorp, a native bee specialist and an emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, "retired" in 1994, but not really. He still maintains his office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, and continues to focus his research on the ecology, systematics, biodiversity and conservation of bees. He's involved in research on the role of native bees in crop pollination, the role of urban gardens as bee habitat, and declines in native bumble bee populations.
Thorp is known as the "go-to" person when it comes to native bee identification. Mason bees? Check. Leafcutter bees? Check. Blue orchard bees? Check. Bumble bees? Double-check.
Last June he presented a talk at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., on "Western Bumble Bees in Peril" and in August, addressed the Western Apicultural Society conference in Healdsburg on native bees.
Retired? No way.
Among the other main speakers at the 2010 Bee Symposium: Kathy Kellison (top left), executive director of PFSP; beekeeper Serge Labesque of Glen Ellen, Sonoma County; researcher and beekeeper Randy Oliver of Grass Valley, Nevada County; and Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist (honey bee specialist) and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
The conference also will include information on beekeeping practices, innovative approaches and ecological strategies for beekeepers, Kellison said, "and actions that can be taken by beekeepers, groups and other interested supporters who wish to help our bees."
Kellison say the "early bee" (not "early bird") registration for the 2010 Bee Symposium is $25 if you sign up by March 1. After March 1, the cost is $30. It's open to all interested persons.
More information on the symposium, including registration, is on the PFSP Web site.
It's not spring, but don't tell that to the folks at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Today bee breeder-geneticist Michael "Kim" Fondrk mowed the lush green grass around the apiary. Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Laidlaw facility, continued preparing for a series of specialized bee courses. She tended the hives with beekeeper and junior specialist Elizabeth Frost and beekeeper Tylan Selby, a first-year entomology student.
The conference room buzzed with ideas for an upcoming tour. Following the meeting, Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty talked "bees 'n almonds" with Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus. Yang will be conducting the first of what will probably be many tours at the Laidlaw facility.
The tours will include the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the quarter-acre Campus Buzzway. Both are bee friendly gardens that will provide a year-around food source for the bees, and educational opportunities for visitors.
Meanwhile, oblivious to the people activity, the bees continued to gather pollen and nectar from nearby almond trees.
"The queen bees are really busy laying eggs," Cobey said. That means more workers, more drones and more queen bees.
During the peak season, a queen bee can lay 2000 eggs a day, Cobey said.
That's definitely springing into action.
Examining Almond Blossoms
Lovely almond blossoms
Have you seen the little syrphid flies, aka flower flies and hover flies, hovering around the early spring blossoms?
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology, said these syrphids (below) are probably from the genus Toxomerus. The family is Syrphidae (flower flies).
The larvae of these insects are good to have in your garden--they eat aphids, thrips and small caterpillars. The adults feed on nectar and pollen.
The syrphids fly so fast that you almost need a motor drive to capture them in flight. Plus, they seem especially skittish this time of year. Shadow them with your body or camera and they're gone in a flash.To learn more about flower flies, a good read is Robert Buggs' 25-page booklet, "Flower Flies (Syrphidae) and Other Biological Control Agents for Aphids in Vegetable Crops," published in May 2008 by the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). You can download it for free by accessing this page.
It's illustrated with photos that will help you recognize many of the syrphids.