Backyard Orchard News
Those dratted mites.
UC Davis entomologist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor and a native bee pollinator specialist, sent us a BBC report linking a varroa mite infestation to a devastating honey production loss in the UK. It's the worst honey crisis ever to hit the UK.
In short: beekeepers are concerned that by Christmas, there may be no more domestically produced honey left on the supermarket shelves.
The mite infestation has already killed off an estimated quarter of the UK's honey bees, according to BBC correspondent Jeremy Cooke, who said about "one in three colonies has been wiped out."
The varroa mite, or the Varroa destructor, is a nasty pest. Now found in most countries (Australia is an exception), it's an external parasite initially discovered on the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana. Over the last few decades, however, it has spread to the Western honey bee (also known as the European honey bee), Apis mellifera.
The varroa mite entered the UK in 1992, reports show. It has since spread throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The blood-sucking parasite feeds on both adults and the brood (immature larvae). It weakens the bees, opening them up to all sorts of diseases. And eventually, if not controlled, it will destroy the colonies.
The bad news is that the varroa mite cannot be completely eradicated, but with proper control methods, the mite population can be kept at a low level.
When California State Secretary of Agriculture A. G. Kawamura visited the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis last month, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey showed him dead mites on a hive floor. (See story on UC Davis Department of Entomology site.)
Kawamura is no stranger to bees or bee pests. As a youth, he reared bees--until the infectious bee disease, American foulbrood, upset his plans.
To control the mite, beekeepers usually use a combination of management methods. They use biotechnical methods and chemical controls. Unfortunately, in some areas, the varroa mite is developing resistance to miticides--another worry for beekeepers.
Said Cobey: "You need to reduce mite levels in colonies by late summer--August/September--to have healthy bees in spring."
Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis says that in California, the Department of Pesticide Regulation "is close to approving another chemical treatment" to help control the mite problem.
It may be ready by next spring.
The mites will be waiting.
Mite on Drone
Mites on Hive Floor
Okay, what are the answers?In a prior blog, we listed several questions asked at the Linnaean Games, a college-bowl type of quiz that’s a traditional part of the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting. You have to know insect facts and figures and ESA history to win.
It's a fun game that draws entomologists and would-be entomologists from throughout the world. Professor Tom Turpin of Purdue, decked out in a tuxedo and a monarch butterfly bowtie, moderates the event and provides more humor than some of the late-night TV shows. This year's ESA meeting, the 56th annual, took place Nov. 16-19 in Reno.Ready for the questions and answers?
Question: U.S. states have an official state insect. List three states that do not have one.
Answer: Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming. Source: See http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/Lists/state_insects.html
Question: What is the purpose of the process in folklore known as “Telling the Bees?”
Answer: To keep honey bees from leaving the hive when a bee keeper had died.
Question: Approximately how many beetle species have been described to date? Choices:
Answer: 350,000 (c)
Answer: Gil GrissomQuestion: Imagine that you have wandered through an area where an egg mass of deer ticks has just hatched, and you find yourself in intimate association the dozens of tick larvae. What is your risk of getting Lyme disease?
Answer: None. This would be their first blood meal, and Lyme disease is not transovarially transmitted.The University of California, Riverside team won the competition, edging North Carolina State University. The UC Riverside team included Jennifer Henke, Jason Mottern, Casey Butler and Rebeccah Waterworth.
UC Davis, our home team (Go Aggies!), also competed. Hillary Thomas, Andrew Pederson, Dominic Reisig and Michael Branstetter gave it the ol' Aggie try but didn’t quite make the finals. Next year! Their coach, Larry Godfrey, was on a University of Kentucky championship team.What year was that? "Are you trying to make me feel really old?" Godfrey quipped. "Well, it was 1983 at the second annual Linnaean Games (second annual in the North Central Branch of ESA where it started). It was a few years before the other branches started this competition and several years before they did it at the national meeting. Tom Turpin, who started this with another professor at Purdue (Rich Edwards) was my major professor for my M.S."
(Godfrey received his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Purdue and his doctorate at the University of Kentucky.)Ready for more questions?
Question: Name three insects of the five that are athletic team mascots at universities in the United States.
Answer: Bees, Black Flies, Hornets, Wasps, Yellowjackets
Question: What well known American poet wrote a poem entitled “The Bird to the Bees” that began with the lines “There is obviously a complete lack of understanding between the bee/ And me?"
Answer: Ogden Nash
In future columns, we'll take a look at some of the other questions and answers.
Meanwhile, check out the Smithsonian Magazine article on the University of Maryland team at the Linnaean Games. The article mentions that the students crammed for the Linnaean Games by poring over "The Insects," written by UC Davis entomology professors Penny Gullan and Peter Cranston.
Pondering a Question
UC Davis Team
In football lingo, a curl is a spin on a football, which makes it swerve when it's kicked.
Honey bees can also "curl."
I took this photo today of a lone bee curled on purple sage. The worker bee was gathering nectar in the summerlike weather.
"That's the same position a bee has to get in to sting you," observed UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen. "She can't lie flat to sting. She curls up and stings."
Like a comma.
A death "sentence" for her; a little pain for the victim.
Branstetter delivered an illustrated presentation on “Phylogeny and Biography of the Ant Genus Stenamma: Uncovering the Evolutionary Origins of Mesoamerican Taxa.” Stenamma is a little studied genus of leaf litter ants.
He competed in the Revisions and Evolution Section, moderated by scientists from Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada, and the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. Following his presentation, judges and spectators asked questions, an integral part of the competition.
Fourteen graduate students from throughout the
A fourth-year graduate student, Branstetter studies with UC Davis entomology professor
Branstetter, a native of
The recipient of several grants, Branstetter has collected ants in
Branstetter’s next collecting trip will be a two-month excursion in
This is the second consecutive year that a UC Davis graduate student in systematics has won the President’s Prize at the ESA meeting, said Lynn Kimsey, chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Last year
Profile of an Ant
The movie, "Sideways," has nothing on a spotted cucumber beetle climbing up, down and sideways on a rock purslane.
The spotted cucumber beetle is a pest, while the rock purslane has to be among the world's most beautiful flowers. (And also very attractive to insects.)
The 2004 movie is about two guys on a life-altering journey through the wine country of Napa. They drank copious amounts of the adult beverage.
The spotted cucumber beetle was just feeding on nectar, the insect's version of wine.
Spotted cucumber beetle
Spotted cucumber beetle inside rock purslane