Backyard Orchard News
Honey isn't always amber-colored.
It can range from white to dark brown, depending on the flowers the bees visit.
Back in 1971, a group of UC Davis bee specialists wrote a booklet, Fundamentals of California Beekeeping, published by the "University of California College of Agriculture." Although now 37 years old, it's still a good source of information in many respects.
The authors included UC Davis faculty members Harry H. Laidlaw (for whom the bee biology facility at UC Davis is named), Robbin Thorp, Norman Gary and Lee Watkins. UC Davis Extension apiculurist Ward Stanger served as the editor, consulting with Len Foote, then supervisor of apiary inspection for the State Department of Agriculture.
"Hundreds of species of California plants yield pollen or nectar, but the most important plants for commercial nectar are alfalfa, oranges, cotton, beans, sages (black, sonoma, white and white leaf), yellow starthistle, wild buckwheats, manzanita, eucalyptus and blue curls," the authors wrote. "Extensive use of herbicides to control yellow starthistle has decidedly reduced its pasturage in California. Alfalfa, oranges, cotton and beans present a hazard for bees because of pesticides used on them."
The book also mentions the toxicity of California buckeye (Aesculus californica). It blooms in May and June and is very attractive to bees.
"...bees feeding on its pollen are believed to produce larval food (pollen and honey) which results in malformed adults," the authors pointed out.
Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) deserves special mention. Growers hate it and beekeepers love it. It's an exotic, invasive weed that's well established in California. It blooms from May to October.
The honey? It's white to extra light amber and delicious.
So, buckeye is attractive to bees but bad for them, and yellow starthistle is bad for farmers but good for beekeepers.
That's something to think about when you're spreading honey on your freshly baked roll or dribbling it over your pancakes.
When the Entomological Society of America's 56th annual meeting takes place Nov. 16-19 in Reno, UC Davis entomologists will be out in force.
And they'll be highly honored.
Entomology professors Michael Parrella and Frank Zalom will be inducted as Fellows, which means they are among the top insect scientists in the world. The 5700-member ESA, formed in 1889, is a non-profit organization that includes representatives from educational institutions, government, health agencies, and private industry.
As Lynn Kimsey, chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology said: “These are highly prestigious awards, granted only to 10 or fewer entomologists every year. Michael Parrella and Frank Zalom are carrying on our department’s tradition of excellence and commitment."
Eight other UC Davis entomologists have received the honor since 1947.Richard M. Bohart (1917-2007), for whom the Bohart Museum of Entomology is named, was the first UC Davis entomologist to be selected an ESA Fellow (1947). Seven others followed: Donald McLean, 1990; Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), 1991; John Edman, 1994; Robert Washino, 1996; Bruce Eldridge, 2001; William Reisen, 2003 and Harry Kaya, 2007.
Parrella is the associate dean of the Division of Agricultural Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Zalom is a former director of the UC Integrated Pest Management Program and the former vice chair of the department. Zalom also was nominated for ESA president recently by the ESA's Pacific Branch.
You can read about their many accomplishments here.
Both entomologists will be honored by their peers on Sunday night, Nov. 16 at the ESA's plenary session in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
Zalom also will be honored as part of the UC's seven-member Almond Pest Management Alliance IPM Team that will receive the Entomological Foundation’s 2008 Award for Excellence in IPM. Other members are Carolyn Pickel, UC Cooperative Extension, Sutter-Yuba counties; Walter Bentley, UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier; UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors Mario Viveros, Kern County, Roger Duncan, Stanislaus County, and Joe Connell, Butte County; and scientist Barat Bisrabi, Dow AgroSciences. Both Pickel and Bentley are UC IPM advisors.
Another high honor at the same plenary session: UC Davis chemical ecologist Walter Leal will receive the ESA's coveted Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology for his innovative and creative research involving insect communication. His lab recently discovered the mode of action for the mosquito repellent, DEET.
Among other UC Davis folks to be honored during the conference:
Mosquito researcher Chris Barker, who received his doctorate earlier this year, is the winner of the John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award from the Pacific Branch of the ESA.
Noted entomologists Maurine and Catherine Tauber, retired from Cornell and now affiliated with UC Davis, will be honored for their diverse entomological accomplishments at a special symposium. Lester E. Ehler, emeritus professor, will speak on their life's work. In addition, other faculty and graduate students will deliver presentations at the conference.
Congratulations to all! Very well deserved!
They are among the reasons why the Chronicle of Higher Education selected UC Davis the No. 1 entomology department in the country (November 2007).
You may not know it, but you've eaten insects.
Oh, yes, you have.
The other day I meandered over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis campus, and a sign told me that.
There it was--plain as day (as if a day can be plain). "In your lunch, you probably eat more insects than you realize," the sign read. It went on to quote the Food and Drug Administration, that veritable institution that protects our eating habits--or tries to.
If you eat 100 grams of chocolate, you will also eat 80 insect fragments.
If you eat 100 grams of ground cinnamon, that means 800 insect fragments.
And 100 grams of macaroni? That would be 100 insect fragments.
Are you fond of mushrooms? Eat 100 grams of mushrooms and you'll also be eating 20 maggots. Bon Appétit!
So you like pizza? In every 100 grams of pizza sauce there are 30 fly eggs or two maggots.
Insects are everywhere.
They're probably even on the sign.
(Note: The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, is at 1124 Academic Surge. It houses more than 7 million specimens and is the seventh largest insect museum in North America.)
Pros and Cons of Eating Insects
It's Tuesday, Nov. 11, Veterans' Day. I walked into our bee friendly garden hoping to find a honey bee.
One buzzed erratically over the purple sage and rock purslane and disappeared.
The rest are nestled in a hive somewhere, trying to ward off the cold.
Which got me to thinking--where's that fuzzy wuzzy newborn bee photo? Oh, here it is.
See all the yellow hair on the thorax? When this bee grows old, the thorax will be smooth and almost devoid of hair.
This baby bee photo I shot last summer at the Harry Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. Worker bees live only four to six weeks in the busy season, so by now, she's probably gone to the Big Bee Heaven in the Sky.
But isn't this baby bee adorable? You can hold a day-old bee without getting stung. Day-old bees don't have stingers, says UC Davis bee apiculturist Eric Mussen.
Better yet--hold a drone, a male bee. No stinger. Ever.
Chances are if you walked up to a group of people and asked "Have you seen a Megachile today?" they'd stare at you blankly.
What's a Megachile? It's a native bee, also known as a leafcutter bee.
When most people think about bees, they think about honey bees, which are native to Europe.
They don't think of the some 4000 bee species native to the United States. Of that number, about 1600 species are found in California.
Enter Jaime Pawelek of UC Berkeley's Department of Organisms and the Environment, a researcher who works in professor Gordon Frankie's lab. She discussed “Native California Bees: Looking for Cheap Urban Real Estate” at the Nov. 6 meeting of the Northern California Entomology Society meeting in Concord.
The "real estate," as Frankie related earlier in an e-mail, "refers mostly to the flowers that people use in their gardens."
Pawelek, who received her bachelor of science degree in conservation and resource studies from UC Berkeley, showed slides of numerous native bees, including a metallic green bee (Agapostemon texanus), long-horned bees (Melissodes sp), yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus sp.), leafcutting bee (Megachile sp.), and a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus spp.), not to mention the sweat, squash and orchid bees.
Most native bees (in fact, more than 70 percent) nest in the ground, Pawelek said. And, most native bees are solitary nesters. Some native bees are as tiny as a grain of rice.
Native bees are adept at pollinating specific crops, including blueberries, tomatoes and alfalfa, Pawelek said.
What should concern us: the decline in the diversity and abundance of native bees. "Causes for the decline may include," she said, "pesticide use, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and global climate change."
Although past studies have focused on agricultural or wildland habits, urban areas can also serve as habitat of native bees. In fact, initial research by the Gordon Frankie lab found 82 bee species in Berkeley alone, and of that number, 78 were native bee species.
In 2003, the Frankie lab set up the Oxford Tract Experimental Garden in Berkeley with a main goal of monitoring the diversity and abundance of bee species visiting an urban garden, Pawelek said.
In 2003 they planted some 16 species, including sunflowers, cosmos and sage. In 2005, the garden contained 40 plant species. Today it's swelled to more than 130 plant species.
To date, the researchers have collected a total of 37 bee species in the experimental garden alone. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor, UC Davis, identifies them. "He's our bee taxonomist," Pawelek said.
In monitoring the bee-plant associations--now a primary component of their research--they found that native bees forage at native plants more often than non-native plant species, and certain plant families are highly attractive to bees. These include Asteracae (aster family), Lamiaceae (mint family) and Polygonaceae (knotweed family).
Their research takes them to urban diversity sites throughout California. Some sites are community gardens, residential gardens and neighborhood parks. Others: cemeteries and weedy lots.
Information collected at each site includes bee abundance and diversity, bee species identification, bee-plant associations, seasonality of bees and plant resources.
If you want to plant a bee friendly garden, here are some tips. It's important to offer diversity--include at least 20 plant species, Pawelek said. Cluster flowers of the same species in the same patch. Be sure to leave bare dirt for nesting purposes (unlike gardeners, bees don't like mulch). Also, provide wood blocks for cavity nesters. To make a "bee condo," drill holes of various sizes in untreated wood.
You may also want to consider what California Academy of Sciences did: a roof-top garden. The academy maintains a "green roof" using many native California bee plants.
If you'd like to design an urban bee garden or just want to know more about native bees and what flowers to plant, check out Frankie's comprehensive and exceedingly well done Web site.
Better yet, bookmark it! It's a winner!/span>