Backyard Orchard News
Honey bee geneticist Robert E. Page Jr. is in good company.
Good company, indeed.
Think scientists Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.
Page, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1980 and then became a noted geneticist at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, has just been elected to the oldest scientific academy of science, the Germany Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, which dates back to 1652.
Besides Darwin, Curie and Einstein, the academy membership has included explorer Alexander von Humboldt and author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Overall, some of the most brilliant and innovative minds in physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy and mathematics.
“Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin are my heroes,” said Page. “I am truly honored to belong to an academy that lists them as former members.”
Page is known for his pioneering research in the behavioral genetics of honey. His expertise includes Africanized bees, genetics and evolution of social organization, sex determination and division of labor in insect societies. His work has graced the covers of such respected journals as Naturwissenschaften, Nature, Genome Research, Cell and BioEssays.
Page, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, "officially" retired from UC Davis in 2004, but he didn't stay retired. Arizona State University recruited him that same year to organize three departments (biology, microbiology and botany) into ASU’s
“Rob Page is one of the most gifted scientists, administrators, and teachers I have had the privilege to know in 30 years in academia,” said James Carey, UC Davis professor of entomology and program director of the Biodemographic Determinants of Life Span project, who collaborates with Page. “Those of us who have worked with him congratulate him and are proud to call him our colleague and friend.”
UC Davis chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor and former chair of the Department of Entomology, described Page as “one-of-a-kind: a premier scholar and an exemplary administrator.”
Rob Page's specialized stock of honey bees is legendary, too. It's back at UC Davis.
We first saw these special honey bees when bee breeder-geneticist Michael "Kim" Fondrk, who manages the Page stock, trucked the bees to Dixon to pollinate an almond orchard. The San Francisco Chronicle covered the story. Fondrk opened a hive to point out the queen bee, the worker bees and the drones.
And just as beautiful is the well-deserved honor that honey bee geneticist Robert E. Page Jr. just received./st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:placetype>/o:p>/o:p>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>
Frame of Bees
UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey loves flies.
So, every chance I get, I shoot an image for him.
Many of the images wind up in his classroom PowerPoint presentations.
"Keep 'em coming," he says.
So, I shoot flies. Yes, indeed. I shoot flies. No, I am not a candidate for a 12-step program. Well, not yet.
Truth is, we think of flies as noxious. We don't think of flies as having parts like a head, abdomen and thorax--or compound eyes, arista, antenna, prescutum, scutum, scutellum, balancer and mesothorax.
They do, though.
Alive or dead.
And some are even pretty--especially when they're touching down on delicate pink blossoms.
Pretty in Pink?
Colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious phenomonen characterized by honey bees abandoning their hives, is still with is, and the cause is still mysterious.
Over the past three years beekeepers throughout the United States have reported losing from one-third to 100 percent of their colonies to CCD, says UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology Faculty since 1976 and a noted authority on honey bees.
The bees just vanish, leaving behind the queen, the immature brood (eggs, larvae and pupae) and stored food.
The calamity of CCD.
The queen, in peak season, lays about 2000 eggs a day. The worker bees serve as the nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, heating and air conditioning specialists, foragers, guards and undertakers. They feed their mother (the queen) and their brothers, the drones. The sisters are their brothers' keepers. The drones' only function is to mate with the queen.
The worker bees pollinate about 100 crops in California, including nuts, fruits and vegetables. They just finished pollinating California's 700,000 acres of almonds. Now they're pollinating pomegranates, tangerines, lemons, squash, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables in orchards and gardens near you.
Bring on National Pollinator Week, June 22-28.
Meanwhile, it's good to see that Häagen-Dazs Häagen-Dazs is continuing to support honey bee research at UC Davis and Pennsylvania State University. Back in February 2008, the premier ice cream brand launched an educational campaign to save the bees and just unveiled a newly updated site. One of the next projects: the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. Designed by a Sausalito team, the haven will be implemented this summer and publicly dedicated in October.
The haven will be a year-around food source for bees and other insects, such as butterflies, bumble bees and syrphids. Other goals: to create a public awareness of the plight of the honey bee, and to educate visitors about bees and the kinds of bee friendly plants they can choose for their own gardens.
Bottom line: let's keep our bees healthy. Mussen suspects that CCD is caused by a combination of factors: malnutrition, pesticides, parasites, diseases and stress.
If CCD has a face, then two photos can tell the story. First, look at the photo of healthy bees and then look at the photo from an abandoned hive. The bee antenna poking through an abandoned cell is just plain sad.
The queen bee, the sisters, the brothers, the brood--all gone.
The calamity of CCD.
To catch a carpenter bee...
The carpenter bees (Xylocopa tabaniformis) that nectar the sage, lavender, catmint and coral bells in our bee friendly garden move fast.
How fast? As fast as a buzz. They buzz into a blur and then back into a buzz.
Oh, but there are ways to capture their images. Consider not just the camera, but the time of day, the habitat, and your presence.
Camera: A macro lens will enable you to get up close. Remove the lens hood so you can get even closer. Like people, carpenter bees don't like being poked with sharp metal objects. Skip the tripod. It's too cumbersome to haul around on insect safaris. Use a flash to stop the action and provide a sharper depth of field.
Time of Day: Shoot early in the morning when the sun hasn't quite warmed them. They don't fly as fast then. They are cold-blooded so their body reflects the temperature around them.
Habitat: Know what they like. In our yard, they gravitate toward the lavender, but they like to mix it up with sage, catmint and coral bells. The pomegranate, citrus, tomato and squash blossoms don't interest them as much as they do me.
Your Presence: There are several rules here. Watch where they go and station yourself there. Make them come to you. Assure them them that hey, you're just part of the scenery. (You don't have to wear a t-shirt that says "I'm Just Part of the Scenery.") Keep low, preferably at their level. Do not shadow them. If they buzz off, not to worry. Like Arnold, they'll be "b-a-a-c-k."
Added Attractant: Sometimes you can dab a little honey or sugar water on a blossom to ensure that they stay a little longer. I'm saving this one for autumn, when the nectar subsides.
Oh, one more thing. If you have a entomologically inclined cat, make sure the feline is not around to disrupt their flight patterns.
But that would make an interesting photo, too.
Caught in Flight
Head in the Blossom
If you like squash, you have a bee to thank.
Without bees, no pollination. Without pollination, no squash.
Honey bees in California pollinate some 100 agricultural crops, including fruits, nuts and vegetables. One of them is squash.
When a squash blossom burst open last weekend in our garden, a honey bee buzzed inside, shadowed by a carpenter bee.
The carpenter bee chased off the honey bee, but not for long. The honey bee returned to roll in the pollen, victorious.
A victory in the garden. Does that make it a victory garden?
Carpenter Bee and Honey Bee
Covered in Pollen