Posts Tagged: honey bees
The news is not good.
The honey bee crisis is worsening.
Back in November of 2006, commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg of Pennsylvania sounded the alarm. Fifty 50 percent of his bees had collapsed in Florida. Other beekeepers came forward with equally bad news: some individuals reporting losing one-third to 100 percent of their bees.
Quickly referred to as colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious phenomenon is characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, flying off and leaving behind the queen bee, brood and stored food.
Fast forward to today: a federal survey shows a heavy bee dieoff this winter, and research published last Friday in the journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) shows an alarming number of pesticides found in pollen and wax samples from 23 states and a Canadian province.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, agrees that bees are in trouble and the declining population is worsening. Scores of beekeepers have reported opening hives and finding them virtually empty.
Meanwhile, another federal survey on bee winter losses will take place April 1 through April 14. That should shed more light on a darkening crisis.
Perhaps CCD is due to a yet undiscovered virus. Perhaps it's due to a combination of factors: pesticides, diseases, pests, viruses, malnutrition and stress.
"Unexpected, periodic losses of honey bee colonies, very similar to this, have been noted in the bee journals since the late 1800s, but they tended to be very short term," Mussen says in his March 19th Bee Brief, published on the UC Davis Entomology Web site. "In 1965, 66, and 67 a similar problem persisted for three years. Our current session is the longest yet."
"The intensity of research on possible leads to the causes of CCD is increasing around the world, as other countries are having similar losses in their honey bee colonies," he writes in his Bee Brief. "The global nature of the problem suggests that some other, more fundamental aspect of the environment may be involved. Honey bees prosper best and are best able to resist diseases, parasites, exposures to toxins, etc. when they have fed on a quality diet.
"For bees in general, and honey bees in particular, that means a constant supply of pollens that provide their required proteins, vitamins, lipids, sterols, minerals, antioxidants and carbohydrates. While global warming may not directly challenge a species of insect that can prosper from very cold climates to the equator, climate change may result in more stress on the bees. Increased periods of dry, hot weather or cold, rainy weather, could limit availability and access to those important pollens. The bees will have to rear their brood at the expense of their body nutrient reserves. The brood will be less well fed, and in turn will not be good at rearing the next 'round of brood.' "
That sort of downward spiral, Mussen says, will leave the bees very fragile and susceptible.
The MAAREC Web site (Mid-Atlantic Apiculture and Extension Consortium) hosted by Pennsylvania State University, offers latest updates on the crisis.
Tending the Bees
If you've ever strolled the streets of New York, you probably noticed a few honey bees here and there.
Not the HIVES (they're illegal), but the BEES.
Tomorrow, the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will vote on whether city residents can keep bees in the Big Apple.
The answer ought to be a resounding "yes."
We need bees in the Big Apple--and elsewhere throughout the country and the world.
A great article in Sunday's New York Times drew attention to the issue. The headline buzzed: "Bees in the City? New York May Let the Hives Come Out of Hiding."
Reporter Mireya Navarro put it succinctly: "New York City is among the few jurisdictions in the country that deem beekeeping illegal, lumping the honey bees together with hyenas, tarantulas, cobras, dingoes and other animals considered too dangerous or venomous for city life."
Fact is, aggressive pit pulls, notorious panhandlers (including the Wall Street bankers) and and sneaky pickpockets can thrive in the city, but not the three-quarter-inch-long insect that pollinates blossoms.
Currently if you have a hive in New York, you could be fined $2000.The good news is that there's a good chance the ban on beekeeping will end March 16 when the New York City Health Department votes whether to amend the health code to allow beekeeping.
We were glad to see Häagen-Dazs come out in support of overturning the New York City beekeeping ban. In a Feb. 24th news release, the ice cream brand officials pointed out that the honey bee crisis is threatening our food supply. "Not only is the honey bee endangered, so too are the caretakers of our petite pollinators," the news release noted. "Today the average age of a commercial beekeeper is 60 years old. Beekeeping is a dying art that needs to be sustained and supported."
And one way to do that is to encourage backyard or hobbyist beekeepers. We can also plant bee-friendly gardens, avoid insecticides, and spread the word about the importance of bees and other pollinators.
Häagen-Dazs helps support honey research at the University of California, Davis, and Pennsylvania State University. The brand also supports the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the quarter-acre Campus Buzzway at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.We suspect that if New York lifts the bee ban, we'll see scores of beekeepers coming out of the wordwork...er...their hives.
And from the rooftops.
Like Stained Glass
It's a peach of a tree, but it isn't a peach.
It's a nectarine, a close variety of the peach--the result of a genetic mutation.
In between the rain storms, honey bees are nectaring the nectarines and packing pollen, getting ready for the spring hive build-ups.
Like peaches, nectarines originated in ancient China, and not in Persia, as the botanical names, Prunus persica (peach) and Prunus persica var. nucipersica (nectarine), might suggest.
European colonists began growing nectarines in America as early as 1616, historical documents show. That's the same decade that the colonists brought the honey bee to America. So non-native honey bees have been nectaring the non-native nectarines in what is now the United States for almost 400 years.
Two things haven't changed much in four centuries: the beauty of the delicate pink blossoms and the beauty of the industrious bees.
A sure sign of spring...
Bee in Nectarine Blossoms
Pollen-Packing Honey Bee
The old Town Hall off Main Street, Vacaville, Calif., is the perfect backdrop for Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) thriving in planters.
The Iceland poppies, sometimes called arctic poppies, are native to northern Europe and North America. "Papaver" is the Greek word for "poppy."
Last Sunday, around 8 a.m., we spotted two pollinators--the honey bee and the mason bee--nectaring the blossoms.
Honey bee: Apis mellifera. (Contrary to Jerry Seinfeld's incorrect information in The Bee Movie, foragers are worker bees, and all worker bees are female.
The mason bee? A female from the genus Osmia (Family Megachilidae)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, said this mason bee could be the blue orchard bee (BOB), Osmia lignaria propinqua, "but I would need to be able to see the face of the bee to be sure. BOB females have distinctive horns at the bottom of the face. Osmia are difficult enough to separate under a microscope, and only a couple can be identified to species from photos at just the right angle."
It's probably too early for BOB, he said. Whatever the species, the mason bee declined to turn around.
Not an I-Pod
It didn't take long.
Last year at this time the field next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis stood bleak and barren.
Nothing there but scattered patches of grass and a few pocket gophers and ground squirrels.
Last fall, after an international design competition, the site morphed into the truly beautiful Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden designed as a year-around food source for the bees in the Laidlaw apiary and as educational opportunities for visitors. Visitors will learn all about honey bees and what to plant in their own gardens to attract pollinators. (Folks can also download the 21-page design, which includes the list of plants.)
Next to crop up: The quarter-acre Campus Buzzway, planted with California poppies, lupines and coreopsis (tickseed). Blue and gold? Those are the university colors. The Buzzway sprawls on land once occupied by the Baxter House.
Fast forward to today, Feb. 26. The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and its neighbor, the Campus Buzzway, are beginning to take off, just like the beginning pilots that practice their take-offs and landings at the nearby University Airport.
Among the first to bloom: the salvias, lupines, and almond trees. Next: the Teucrium fruticans, cultivar "Azureum."
The Teucrium fruticans, or bush germanders, are in the mint family, Lamiaceae. They're evergreen perennial shrubs native to the Mediterranean and produce strikingly brilliant blue flowers.
And you know how much bees like the color, blue.It's pure bee bliss.