Backyard Orchard News
Almond pollination season is approaching, and with it, come concerns.
Mussen, a former New Englander who has seen dozens of almond pollination seasons in California (he's been a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976), says California now has approximately 710,000 acres of almonds. Each acre requires two hives for pollination.
Since California doesn't have that many bees, beekeepers from around the country truck in their colonies. The going rate per hive over the last several years has ranged from $100 to $150.
Generally, California's almond pollination season starts around Feb. 10, Mussen says, and ends around March 10. That takes into account the early, mid- or late varieties that bloom at different times. However, the pollination period for each individual orchard is around 10 days.
The flight hours of a honey bee during almond pollination season? Approximately nine hours a day over a 10-day bloom period.
And what are flight hours? Mussen defines "flight hours" as "the number of hours above 55 degrees when the wind is less than 15 miles per hour, given a sufficient level of sunlight without rainfall."
"I believe that if the tree varieties overlap well in bloom, the bees usually have moved the pollen around in the morning and early afternoon on good flight days," he writes in his newsletter. "That probably requires only about four hours a day."
Of course, poor weather can interfere significantly with "fertilization and nut set," Mussen says, "but it would not be the fault of the bees."
As a service to beekeepers and growers, a retired beekeeper posts information on the Almond Board of California Web site indicating who's renting colonies and who needs pollination.
Meanwhile, check out the images below of UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk in a Dixon, Calif. almond orchard. Fondrk manages the Honey Bee Pollen Hoarding Selection Program at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, under the direction of Robert E. Page Jr., Arizona State University. Fondrk and Page moved the bees from Arizona to California several years ago.
The noonhour seminars sponsored every Wednesday through March 10 by the Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, are drawing widespread interest.
And delightedly so.
Many faculty, students and staff make it a point to attend the 12:10 to 1 p.m. sessions in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Drive, or they listen to the live Webcasts. Most, but not all lectures are being Webcast. (Exceptions: lectures containing unpublished data.)
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, tropical arthropod ecologist Steve Yanoviak with the Department of Biology, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, will speak on "Ecology and Behavior of Tropical Arboreal Ants."
Yanoviak does research in the rain forests of Peru. He recently returned with a fun image of himself (the exuberance expressed in this photo would prompt anyone to want to study ants!) and an image of an arboreal ant, Cephalotes atratus (above). He will be hosted by graduate students Michael Branstetter and Bonnie Blaimer, who study with professor and ant specialist Phil Ward.
Graduate student Ian Pearse of professor Rick Karban's lab is coordinating the winter noonhour seminars. Fellow graduate students James Harwood and Amy Morice, who study with professor James Carey, are devoting their time and talents to Webcasting the seminars. Folks can also access the archived Webcasts dating back to February 2009.
Here's the winter quarter schedule, which includes the live link to the Webcasts.Arboreal ants! Bring 'em on!
Talk about singing the blues.Specifically, the noted "Blue King" (Aster amellus), a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae.
This is one flower that deserves its own chorus.
At the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, there's a "Blue King" planted close to the back entrance leading to the apiary. It serves a triple purpose: food for the bees; a splash of color for the beekeepers who tend the apiary; and eye candy for photographers and other visitors.
In the late fall and early winter (before the frost), the bees are all over it.
However, soon the "Blue King" will have company. Come spring, the one-half acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the quarter-acre Campus Buzzway (two bee friendly gardens planted last fall near the facility) will be buzzing with bees.
Circle your calendar: the public opening is June 19.
Working the Flower
James R. Carey is used to dissent.
The entomology professor at the University of California, Davis, fervently believes that the Mediterranean fruit fly and light brown apple moth, two exotic and invasive pests, have long been established in California and cannot be eradicated.
Trying to eradicate them, he says, is like "throwing money down a rathole."
Check out the current (Jan. 8th) edition of Science Magazine and read the three-page NewsFocus piece headlined "From Medfly to Moth: Raising a Buzz of Dissent."
This is sure to garner a plethora of comments, concern and criticism. This is about as high-profile as it gets in the scientific community. And this is not the message that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is trying to get across. (See CDFA's Web site on the light brown apple moth).
Carey, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, just completed a term as the chair of the UC Systemwide Academic Senate University Committee on Research Policy. He also directs a federally funded program on lifespan and aging; the program just received a $3.4 million grant renewal from the National Institute on Aging.
"James Carey is at it again," began writer Ingfei Chen of Santa Cruz. "In the early 1990s, as a scientific adviser in California's unpopular pesticide-spraying war against the Mediterranean fruit fly, the entomologist vocally charged that the state's program was fundamentally flawed. Bucking conventional wisdom, Carey claimed that the Medfly was already established, defying the eradication attempt."
Fast forward to February 2007 and the discovery in California (Bay Area) of a new invasive pest, the light brown apple moth, a native of Australia.
Aerial spraying of a pheromone resulted in a "red-hot-public ruckus, forcing the state to shift to a plan to release zillions of sterile moths...And once again, Carey has surfaced as a relentless voice of dissent," Chen wrote.
Carey insists it can't be eradicated, that it's here to stay and we ought to focus on pest management, not eradication.
What's next? Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology wants to organize a spring conference "to reexamine the invasive species-policy paradigm from to bottom," Chen wrote.
"The goal," she wrote, "is an open dialogue with major stakeholders," including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and CDFA.
Carey told us today that Parrella plans to meet with him and a group of other entomologists next week to discuss the proposed workshop.
"It would be nice to think we could sit down and discuss things," Parrella told Chen in the Science Magazine article. "It's not us versus them."
Light Brown Apple Moth
The January newsletter published by the eXtension.org Bee Health Community of Practice includes:
* New Feature: Managed Pollinator CAP Updates
* Social Media Strategy Developed
* YouTube Channel Launched
* New Feature: University of Florida Bee Disease Videos
* FAQ's Organized by Category
* Google Analytics: Bee Health Homepage in Top 10 at eXtension.org
* On the Calender
One of the many bee experts who answers the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) is John Skinner of the University of Tennessee, who has strong UC Davis connections. He received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1987, studying with major professor and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp. Although an emeritus professor since 1994, Thorp continues his research. He maintains an office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
Here's a sampling of the questions that Skinner answered in the last few months:
How Do Bees Make Wax?
Bees produce the beeswax used in the construction of their combs from the four pair of wax glands located on the underside of the abdomen. These glands are most highly developed and active in bees 10-18 days old. The wax appears in small, irregular oval flakes or scales that project between the overlapped portions of the last four abdominal segments. Wax can be secreted only at relatively high temperatures and after a large intake of honey or nectar. --John Skinner, University of TennesseeHow Do Bees in a Swarm Determine Where to Go for a New Home?
A swarm of bees hanging on a branch includes a queen and thousands of worker bees. Some of these bees function as scouts and search the surrounding area for a suitable category to move into. The scouts return to the swarm cluster and dance to communicate information to the bees in the swarm. There may be numerous dances all going on at the same time. The results are similar to a dance contest where the number of dances is reduced until only one dancer left. Within a half hour of reaching an “agreement” the swarm flies to the new location. --John Skinner, University of TennesseeHow Long Do Honey Bees Live?
During the active season, the lifetime of a worker is five to six weeks. Overwintering worker bees may, however, live for four to six months. Whatever their life span, worker bees usually confine themselves to one task at a time, working without pause. If they are field bees, they may be scouts or collectors. Scouts look for sources of nectar and pollen. Once suitable sources are located, the scouts recruit additional foragers.
Nectar collectors, pollen foragers, water gatherers or propolis gatherers work so single-mindedly at their jobs, they will not stop even to collect honey placed before them. During the day, one may see hundreds of spent workers, wings ragged, returning wearily to the hive. Worker bees are aptly named as they literally work themselves to death. Death occurs following approximately 500 miles of flight. --John Skinner, University of TennesseeHow Can Worker Honey Bees Perform So Many Tasks in Their Short Lives?
The lives of the worker bees fall roughly into two periods. During the first period of approximately three weeks, they are called hive or house bees. On emerging from their cells, they groom themselves and engorge on honey and pollen from the storage cells. Their first three days are spent cleaning out brood cells. Thereafter as they mature, glands including labial, salivary, hypopharangeal and wax become functional they feed the older larvae and then the younger larvae, take orientation flights, evaporate nectar, build comb, feed the queen and the drones, keep an even temperature in the brood nest and guard the entrance to the hive. These differences in responsibilities based on worker age are known as a division of labor. But, depending on specific circumstances, it can be very flexible.
The last half of a worker bee’s adult life is devoted to foraging duties outside the hive. Four necessary items collected outside the hive are pollen, nectar, water and propolis (bee glue).--John Skinner, University of TennesseeGot a question? Just ask it on this page.
Another noted bee expert connected with the "Bee Health" Web site is Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty. Read some of his answers to FAQs posted on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility Web site.
It's all about keeping our bees healthy.
Trio on Sedum