Backyard Orchard News
Dianne DiBlasi is frustrated.
She’s the advisor of Team B.E.E.S. (Bergen Environmental Effort to Save Bees), a group of six high school students in Allendale, N.J. involved in a honey bee project.
Two years ago the students conducted research and interviewed locals to find a community-based environmental project. They decided on bees. They learned about bees and beekeeping, and purchased their supplies.
Today, they're heavily involved in educating the public about bees: how vital bees are and the issues they face. The youths gave a presentation at the Bronx Zoo's "Teens for Planet Earth" summit, where they won the gold award for service-based learning. Then last month, PBS traveled to Allendale to cover the team's activities. The TV show, "GreenQuest," will premiere in February.
Now for the frustration.
Bees are "prohibited animals" in the Borough of Allendale.
“We were fortunate (two years ago) to find a beekeeper in the next town over who graciously let us put our hive on his property,” DiBlasi said.
They petitioned the council to change the ordinance. The council declined.
Now they’ll be addressing council again on Feb. 2--this time with the support of Tim Schuler,
DiBlasi said some of the city council members think the bee project is a potential liability.
“It seems there is more concern over a neighbor getting stung than taking a huge green step forward,” she said.
"On Feb. 2 we will address the council at 7:30 p.m. asking them to 1) remove bees from the list of Prohibited Animals, and 2) approve guidelines for beekeeping that we have drawn up. I invite people to write letters to Mayor Vince Barra stating how important it is for Allendale to take this important step forward." DiBlasi is asking honey bee supporters to send letters to:
Allendale Borough Hall
500 West Crescent Ave
And guess what? Honey bees.
Honey bees? Right. In fact, honey bees are No. 4 on the list "to become extinct."
The author (unknown) of the piece had this to say:
Perhaps nothing on our list of disappearing
Flight of the Honey Bee
She enclosed $20 from her allowance savings.
Hannah Fisher Gray, 11, of
Hannah collected $110 at her birthday party and then contributed $110 from her own money so that both UC Davis and
The girls are the newest bee crusaders, said Lynn Kimsey, chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
“These are very generous gifts from the heart,” Kimsey said. “It’s very touching that these girls would take a special interest in helping us save the honey bees.”
Hannah, a fifth grader from
In the letter, Hannah expressed her concern “about our environment and its creatures, especially the honey bees.”
“I saw the Häagen-Dazs commercial and I instantly wanted to learn more,” she wrote. “I researched about bees and learned ways I could help, such as donating money, using honey instead of sugar, planting honeybee-friendly plants and supporting beekeepers.”
“For my birthday party, I asked my guests to make gifts of money to support honeybee research instead of giving presents for me. The total of these gifts was $110. I am making a matching gift of $110 of my own money, and splitting the gift between the
One of Hannah’s birthday gifts was a T-shirt proclaiming “Bee a Hero.” And, in keeping with her passion for bees, she dressed in a honey bee costume last Halloween.
Hannah learned of the troubling bee crisis from the national Häagen-Dazs campaign, launched Feb. 19 to create awareness for the plight of the honey bee. Nearly 40 percent of Häagen-Dazs brand ice cream flavors are linked to fruits and nuts pollinated by bees.
Katie Brown learned of the plight of the honey bees through the Häagen-Dazs Web site, www.helpthehoneybees.com.
Her mother, Molly Pont-Brown, said that Katie "gets a portion of her allowance each week for charity and had been wanting to help the bees and saving up for a long time, so we were looking online for ways to help the bees and stumbled upon their (Häagen-Dazs) program.”
In her donation letter to UC Davis, Katie drew the Häagen-Dazs symbol, “HD Loves HB,” and two smiling bees. She signed her name with three hearts.
Eager to share information with her classmates on the plight of the honey bees, Katie took photos of foods that bees pollinate and served Honey Bee Vanilla ice cream, the new flavor that Häagen-Dazs created last year as part of its bee crisis-awareness campaign.
Katie is "about to give another $40 additionally from her Star Student Week," her mother said. The six-year-old chose to donate $2 per child to the honey bee research program instead of buying the customary trinkets for them. Katie also sent each classmate a “bee-mail” from the Häagen-Dazs Web site to let them know about it.
For Christmas, Katie received a Häagen-Dazs bee shirt and bee books from her family. Her grandmother in
“What a great thing (the drive to save the bees) for Häagen-Dazs to do,” Molly Pont-Brown wrote in a letter to UC Davis. “And, of course, we appreciate all your department is doing to help the very important honeybees with your research, as well!”
When told of the
As part of its national campaign, Häagen-Dazs last February committed a total of $250,000 for bee research to UC Davis and
The Häagen-Dazs brand is also funding a design competition to create a half-acre honey bee haven garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. The deadline to submit entries is Jan. 30.
UC Davis Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty for 32 years, said the bee population "still has not recovered from previous losses." Some of the nation's beekeepers have reported losing one-third to 100 percent of their bees due to colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which bee mysteriously abandon their hives. He attributes CCD to multiple factors, including diseases, parasites, pesticides, malnutrition, stress and climate change.
"Bees pollinate about 100 agricultural crops, or about one-third of the food that we eat daily," Mussen said.
Those interesting in donating to the honey bee research program at UC Davis or learning more about the design competition for the honey bee haven can access the Department of Entomology home page.
Letter to bee scientists
Hannah Fisher Gray
If you meander over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis campus, you'll see a very tiny predator that looks for all the world like a green leaf. It's the Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis and it's one of the many live specimens housed there.
It's green with pointed eyes (it appears to have a pointy little head, too) and it grows to one-inch in length. Its scientific name is Pseudoharpax virescens (order Mantodea) and it's found in Gambia, the smallest country (in square miles) on the African continent.
And at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Bohart public outreach coordinator Brian Turner says that flower mantises spend their time hiding in flowers, waiting to ambush prey. It dines on insects.
If threatened, the Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis will lift its wings to expose its orange and purple coloring. This, Turner says, "will likely startle potential predators and cause them to lose track of the mantis when it lowers its wings again."
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, founded in 1946, is located in 1124 Academic Surge. It is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Dedicated to teaching, research and service, the museum houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America. The global collection totals more than seven million specimens. It also houses many live specimens, including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Vietnamese centipedes, walking sticks, assassin bugs...and....mantids.
Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis
Flower mantis on finger
If you've been around honey bee hives much, you know what a smoker is.
It's a tool that beekeepers use to inspect, manipulate or handle a hive. They smoke a hive to check the health of the colony, to add a little food, and to take a little honey.
In a way, it's a form of "blowin' smoke" or a deception.
Moses Quinby of St. Johnsville, N.Y. invented the modern-day bee smoker in 1875. He created a firepot with bellows and a nozzle. Ancient Egyptians used pottery filled with smoldering cow dung to smoke the hives.
Why smoke? Smoke calms the bees. It masks the smell of the pheromone that the guard bees release to alert other bees of "trouble in River City." The bees smell the smoke and gorge on honey in preparation for The Big Move.
Pure and simple.
The result: mass confusion. And that leaves plenty of time for the beekeepers to go about their business.
As a child, I loved the old bee smoker that my father used to tend the hives. We marveled at the contraption that bellowed like an accordion and snorted puffs of smoke. Sometimes my father would pump the bellows and teasingly blow smoke toward us.
Today, over at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, I watched bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and assistant Elizabeth Frost smoke the hives and feed pollen to the bees.
They placed the smoker on a table and it kept blowing smoke. It curled into clouds and swirled into stripes and all I could think of was one word.
Pure and simple.
Know your ants.
If you want to identify red imported fire ants and other invasive ants found in the
“This is one of the most clearly organized and informative sites I've ever seen,” said Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. “It should be an invaluable resource for anyone needing information about pest ants in the
Invasive ants threaten the native biodiversity, food security and quality of life, said Sarnat, who is researching the systematics, biogeography and conservation of ants in
The ant key empowers professionals and non-professionals alike to identify the ants they encounter.
Sarnat compiled the guide using Lucid3 software. It covers four subfamilies, 20 genera and 44 species and includes:
- An overview of the species
- Diagnostic chart illustrating a unique combination of identification characters
- Comparison chart illustrating differences among species of similar appearance
- Video clip of the species behavior at food baits Image gallery that includes original specimen images and live images
- Nomenclature section detailing the taxonomic history of the species
- Links and references section for additional literature and online resources
The project was funded primarily by a cooperative agreement between UC Davis and the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Plant Health Science and Technology.
Sarnat became interested in invasive ants while studying at UC Berkeley. He managed the field operations for the National Science Foundation-funded Fiji Terrestrial Arthropod Survey for a year before returning to his graduate studies at UC Davis. “My experience with the arthropod survey,” he said, “prompted me to switch my thesis To raise awareness about invasive ants in the country, Sarnat conducted a series of workshops in
“Although the workshop participants all acknowledged the danger that ants like Solenopsis invicta (red imported fire ant) and Wasmannia auropunctata (little fire ant) posed to the environments, economies and public health of Fiji,” he said, “it was clear that none of the local entomologists or quarantine officers had the taxonomic expertise to recognize the species at ports of entry.”
With funding from
“I was contracted to develop an interactive identification guide that allowed non-specialists to accurately identify the most common and dangerous invasive ants,” Sarnat said.
The instructors provided each participant with a microscope, laptop and a CD of the new identification guide at the five-day workshop, held at the University of the Pacific in
“The workshop was a great success,” he said. “The participants felt newly empowered to prevent invasive ant incursions on their islands.”
Sarnat presented the first edition of the Pacific Invasive Ant key (PIAkey) at the 1st Pacific Invasive Ant conference in
Sarnat said the second edition represents a significant improvement over the first edition. It features fact sheets for each species, numerous specimen images and live images, videos of the ants feeding at baits, an illustrated glossary of technical terms, and an illustrated Lucid key to 44 species of invasive ants.
“Taxonomy can be a difficult field to learn because it has traditionally been taught as a body of knowledge passed down from mentors to students or through scattered and often old literature,” he said. “One must also examine specimens that exist only in a few museums across the world.”
The most exiting aspect of PIAkey, Sarnat said, is that it empowers non-specialists—those not trained by a mentor, or with no access to old literature or far-off museum collections--to use the recent technologies of digital images, the Internet, and an interactive identification software like Lucid to make accurate identifications themselves.
Last year the Bohart Museum of Entomology published a color poster of Sarnat’s auto-montages of the heads of 12 common invasive ants. The poster, “Pacific Invasive Ants,” is available at the
Further information on Sarnat’s work is on his Web site.