Backyard Orchard News
What's happening to our bees?
The International Bee Research Association (IBRA), a non-profit organization formed in 1949 that promotes the "value of bees by providing information on bee science and beekeeping worldwide," has just posted several free downloadable pamphlets on bees, including honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees. There's also a pamphlet on colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious malady characterized by bees abandoning their hives.
The pamphlets are writen for UK audiences, but you'll glean much valuable information, too. The one on honey bees is especially good, offering solid, basic information. It focuses on the queen bee, workers (females) and drones (males). For example, a typical colony, in peak season, will number more than 50,000 bees. They include the lone queen, 300 drones, 25,000 older workers (foragers) and the 25,000 young workers who tend to the 9,000 larvae requiring food, and the 6000 eggs that will develop into larvae. The typical hive also includes 20,000 older larvae and pupae in sealed cells "that need no attention except to be left warm, at around 35 degrees C."
The pamphlet on CCD thoroughly explains the problem, describing serious bee losses as a "major threat to crops and ultimately to the nation's food supply."
(By the way, if you're a beekeeper or someone keenly interested in bees, you'll notice that an unlabeled photo gracing the cover of the CCD pamphlet is not a honey bee, genus Apis, but a female solitary bee in the genus Andrena. It is, however, a nicely captured image of a pollinator.)
So, what IS happening with CCD in California?
"This year CCD appears to be less detrimental to honey bee colonies in California, and the rest of the western U.S. states, than it has been over the past few years," UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, UC Davis Department of Entomology, told us today. "Part of this may be due to the fact that the beekeepers are paying more attention to the needs of their colonies throughout the season, instead of just around the end of the year. The improvement may also be due to the fact that the most susceptible colonies have perished. The beekeepers divide their remaining colonies into new colonies in the spring. The beekeepers are increasing their numbers of colonies using stocks that have survived in the past."
Bee on Pomegranate
"Gossamer" means something sheer, light and delicate, as in gossamer fabric.
You can also apply it to the wings of a carpenter bee.
We captured this image of a male carpenter bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis) nectaring on lavender.
The wings look sheer, fragile and airy. Note the thorax brushed with pollen.
On Gossamer Wings
You won’t want to miss the seminar on “Bee Problems and Colony Losses” on Wednesday, May 13 in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis.
If you can’t make it in person, you can listen to it live via Webinar.
Guest lecturer Richard Fell of the Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech, will speak on "Bee Problems and Colony Losses - Are Things Really That Bad?" from 12:10 to 1 p.m. He'll answer questions following his talk.
He'll answer questions following his talk.
His presentation, sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is hosted by entomology professor Michael Parrella, associate dean of the Division of Agricultural Sciences, UC Davis
Fell's lecture is part of a series of noonhour seminars being held through June 3. They are Webcast in an innovative project spearheaded by professor James Carey, chair of the UC Systemwide Committee on Research Policy.
A honey bee newsletter, "From the UC Apiaries" newsletter, written by Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology Faculty, provides linformative and educational information for beekeepers and those interested in the plight of the honey bee.
In his latest edition, Mussen writes:
"Since years of study on colony collapse disorder (CCD) of honey bees have not produced the smoking gun (a single cause) for the malady, scientists are turning to potential multiple causes. The studies are designed to try to find synergistic interacttions of chemicals in the hive that may be damaging the bees. The dictionary definition of synergism is: interaction of discrete agencies or agents such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects. In other words, one plus one equals more than two. The question is: Can pesticide residues, infectious agents, and/or malnutrition combine to be much worse for the bees than simply the additive effect of each alone?"
To read how he answers this key question, see the March-April edition on his Web site./span>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>
Brian Turner, outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis campus, is used to walking around with a walking stick.
Not just any walking stick. The Giant New Guinea Walking Stick and the Vietnamese Walking Stick.
Although the Bohart Museum houses more than seven million insect specimens, some are quite alive, thank you. They include the walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, giant cave cockroaches, black widow spiders, and the rose hair tarantulas.
All are taking a brief "vacation" from the Bohart and are now housed in the floriculture building at the 134th annual Dixon May Fair, being held May 7-10.
When Turner delivered them to the fair Wednesday afternoon, the insects drew excitement from exhibitors setting up floral displays. They marveled at the size of the spiny Giant New Guinea Walking Stick (Eurycantha calcarate), which can reach 6 inches in length.
The male has large spikes on its back femurs. The female has what looks like a large stinger, but it really is an ovipositer (egg-laying structure).
These insects dine on bramble, rose and guava.
They do not dine on fairgoers.