Posts Tagged: honey bees
Soon beekeepers from around the country will be trucking their bees to California for the annual almond pollination.
California has some 700,000 acres of almonds, with each acre requiring two hives for pollination.
But an article in the Dec. 27th edition of the New York Post raises a serious question: How healthy are the honey bees?
Since colony collapse disorder (CCD) became the buzz word in the fall of 2006, just how healthy are the bees now?
Well, CCD is still with us, and the commercial beekeeper that sounded the alarm--Dave Hackenberg of Pennsylvania--says this winter could be the worst yet.
Hackenberg told The Post that "We had around 3000 hives at the end of the summer, but they started shrinking early, so when we came to truck them to Florida, there was only 2000 of them left."
He said that he wouldn't be surprised if one-fifth of his bees died before spring. "We're hoping we can stop at 50 percent losses," Hackenberg told reporter Alison Benjamin.
CCD, the mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive--leaving behind the queen and brood--continues to wreak havoc.
That's why honey bee research is so important.
CCD is probably caused by multiple factors, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Davis and closely affiliated with the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. The targeted list of suspects involved includes diseases, parasites, pesticides, pests, viruses, stress, malnutrition, and weather changes.
Beeline to Blossom
If you look closely at the colorful ceramic sign at the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, you'll see an entrance to a bee hive.
Entrance? Right. There's a hole in the skep, which tunnels to a hive in back of the sign.
And if you look really closely at the entrance, you'll see guard bees guarding their turf. They don't like home invasions or unwelcome visitors. When bees from other colonies try to sneak in to rob the honey stores, the guards chase them out.
The sign? It's the work of Davis artist Donna Billick, who co-teaches art-and-science classes at UC Davis with entomologist-artist Diane Ullman, a professor in the Department of Entomology.
Look for their students' "bee art" next spring at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted this fall next to the Laidlaw facility. A public opening is set for June 19.
Sign of the Times
Guarding the Hive
The honey bees are hungry.
There are fewer flowers blooming this time of the year, so the bees are foraging for what they can.
This morning the bees were all over the lavender (Lavandula) in our yard. One bee, packing red pollen (probably from rock purslane), glided in, strapped herself to the lavender, and sipped the nectar from a floral "cup."
The bees are a little testy this time of the year. They're foraging for their winter stores as the days grow colder and shorter and the floral supply fades. "Honey bees don't forage when it is cool, below around 50 degrees," says bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk of the University of California, Davis.
To help support the declining bee population, it's crucial to offer the bees a year-around food supply, and that's exactly what the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the UC Davis, will do. A public open house is scheduled June 19.
Meanwhile, it was Red Letter Day today as the pollen-packing bee made her rounds.
Packing Red Pollen
Red Tongue, Red Pollen
That's the title of a new display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
It's quite timely and appropriate because of the beleaguered bees.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, has a keen interest in bees, and not just because she's an entomologist and a former beekeeper. She's instrumental in the administrative aspects of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Reseach Facility, including the newly planted Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden. Plans call for a public open house June 19.
And if you ever want to check out the wide variety of bee specimens (from honey bees to carpenter bees to sweat bees to blue orchard bees, et al), be sure to visit the Bohart. Bees are among the seven million insect specimens housed there.
The Pollination Nation display emphasizes the importance of bees. "Approximately three quarters of all flowering plants rely on animals, mostly insects, for pollination," the display reads. "Wild insect pollinators include bumble bees, flies, solitary bees, butterflies, ants, beetles and wasps.”
“Farmers rely heavily upon the managed colonies of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) to pollinate crops. Not only do honey bees help produce our food but they also provide us honey and wax. Recently honey bee colonies have been dying off and their numbers are declining. Disease and mites may be the root of the problem, but insecticides and habitat loss also pose serious threats.”
Researchers at UC Davis, Kimsey explained, are trying to "understand and solve the problems of declining pollinators, both native and domesticated, by studying their taxonomy, ecology, life history traits, diseases and behaviors."
The Bohart Museum, located in 1124 Academic Surge, was founded in 1946 by the late Richard M. Bohart, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Dedicated to teaching, research and service, the insect museum houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
The museum also includes live insects such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and walking leaves. “That’s our petting zoo,” Kimsey quipped. (Yes, you can hold them.)
More information about the Bohart, visiting hours, and guided tours is available from public outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang at (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen (right), a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, touches on these subjects in the latest edition of from the UC Apiaries, a bimonthly newsletter he's been writing since 1976.
Mussen, who will be the keynote speaker at the 120th annual California State Beekeepers' Association, set Nov. 17-19 in San Diego, keeps beekeepers informed.
His topic at the state beekeepers' meeting? “Glimpses of California’s Beekeeping Future.” He'll speak at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at the convention headquarters, the Hilton Resort and Spa.
Mussen, who was named the California Beekeeper of the Year in 2006, won the American Association of Professional Apiculturists’ Award of Excellence in Extension Apiculture in 2007. In 2008 he received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
A noted authority on honey bees, Mussen has been interviewed by Good Morning, America, the Lehrer Hour, National Public Radio, California Heartland, New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other media.
Other UC Davis speakers at the conference will be breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and assistant professor and native pollinator specialist Neal Williams.
Cobey, who was named the association’s California Young Beekeeper of the Year in 1986, will speak Nov. 17 on “Update on Stock Improvement.” Williams will discuss his work as the UC Davis new native pollinator specialist on Nov. 18.
Meanwhile, hot off the presses, is the September-October edition of from the UC Apiaries. You can read the current edition and back editions, 1994-2009, here. There's no charge to download the newsletters.
The doctor (Mussen has a Ph.D. in entomology from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul) is in.
Honey Bee and Catmint