Posts Tagged: Kim Fondrk
It's not spring, but don't tell that to the folks at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Today bee breeder-geneticist Michael "Kim" Fondrk mowed the lush green grass around the apiary. Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Laidlaw facility, continued preparing for a series of specialized bee courses. She tended the hives with beekeeper and junior specialist Elizabeth Frost and beekeeper Tylan Selby, a first-year entomology student.
The conference room buzzed with ideas for an upcoming tour. Following the meeting, Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty talked "bees 'n almonds" with Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus. Yang will be conducting the first of what will probably be many tours at the Laidlaw facility.
The tours will include the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the quarter-acre Campus Buzzway. Both are bee friendly gardens that will provide a year-around food source for the bees, and educational opportunities for visitors.
Meanwhile, oblivious to the people activity, the bees continued to gather pollen and nectar from nearby almond trees.
"The queen bees are really busy laying eggs," Cobey said. That means more workers, more drones and more queen bees.
During the peak season, a queen bee can lay 2000 eggs a day, Cobey said.
That's definitely springing into action.
Examining Almond Blossoms
Lovely almond blossoms
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 "honey bee reproductive ground plan" hypothesis that originated two dec
Page, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and now founding director of the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, and his collaborator Gro Amdam, are featured in the Oct. 23rd edition of Science, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Writing in the behavior ecology section in an article headlined, "Sex and Social Structure," journalist Elizabeth Pennisi related that the scientists' research "has shown that reproductive traits help shape a honey bee worker's role in life and that ovaries are active players in the process-even if they play little role in reproduction in worker bees."
The specialized tasks "have their basis in what Amdam and Page call a reproductive ground plan," she wrote. Their work has provided a framework and tools to study division of labor, which now "converges on two genes that may explain both ovary size and behavior."
Page and Amdam, an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences and Norwegian University of Life Sciences, believe that genes and hormones likely control social roles as well as longevity.
Their research centers on the role of the ovary in honey bee colonies, and how the worker bees partition the labor of the colony with duties that include rearing young bees, constructing the nest, foraging for pollen and nectar, and processing the food.
Page, a pioneer in the field of evolutionary genetics and social behavior of bees, has long marveled at how highly social bees are. Worker bees, or infertile females, instinctively divide up their roles to run the hive, freeing the queen to lay eggs.
The worker bees serve as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, architects, builders, foragers, guards and undertakers.
But why are some colonies high-pollen collectors and hoarders, while others aren't?
His research on high and low pollen hoarding strains that began two decades led to the "reproductive ground plan" hypothesis. Page continues to keep his specialized bee stock, managed by bee breeder-geneticist M. Kim Fondrk, at UC Davis.
This is exciting research.
As Page told us: "The reproductive ground plan research is integrating developmental biology into insect sociobiology. It is completing the synthesis by looking for the signatures of levels of selection above the organism, at the level of the genes, physiology, and embryogenesis. It is substantiating the superorganism."
UC Davis is the hub for the development and maintenance of the high and low pollen hoarding strains of bees "that have been fundamental in testing the reproductive ground plan hypothesis and understanding how selection on colonies affects different levels of biological organization from genes to societies," he said.
Page, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, retired from UC Davis in 2004 to develop the School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.
Page and Amdam are the co-principal investigators on a federally funded project directed by UC Davis entomology professor James R. Carey. Carey directs the Biodemographic Determinants of Lifespan, a National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Aging-funded program involving scientists from UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley, Stanford and seven other academic institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Greece.See more information on the UC Davis Entomology Web site.
Hives of International Interest
Eagle-eyed Carol Nickles saw it first.
The graduate student coordinator for the UC Davis Department of Entomology spotted the bee swarm from a third-floor window of Briggs Hall.
There it was, swaying on a tree branch, about 25 feet above the ground.
A bee swarm, shaped like a bowling pin, but about 2.5 or 3 feet long.
What exactly is a bee swarm? The late Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), noted bee geneticist-breeder at UC Davis, defined it as "a cluster of worker bees with or without drones and a queen, that has left the hive." The bees often cluster on a tree limb while the "scouts" search for a suitable home.
This particular swarm may be offspring from the bee observation hive located in 122 Briggs Hall for the past several months. Every April the folks at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, located west of campus, set up a bee observation hive for UC Davis Picnic Day. Thousands of social folks check out these little social insects. This is a social network more fascinating than Facebook, Twitter, My Space and Linked In combined.
You can watch the colony at work behind glassed walls. You can see the queen laying eggs, the nursemaids caring for the pending offspring, the royal attendants feeding and grooming the queen bee, and the architects and construction workers building the comb. Other bees are processing pollen into bee bread and converting nectar into honey. Meanwhile, workers are returning from their foraging trips and performing their trademark "waggle dances," letting their sisters know where they've been, where to go and how to get there.
As new offspring emerge (21 days for an egg to become an adult), the hive becomes overcrowded and congested. The end result: bee swarms, a natural part of their life cycle and one of nature's wonders.
The bee swarm at Briggs will probably move by tomorrow morning, says UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Michael "Kim" Fondrk.
"By noon," he estimates, "they'll be gone."
UC Davis bee specialists were well represented in a recent edition of The IPM Practitioner, which landed on our desk last week.
The edition, devoted to “Pesticides and Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder,” includes four photos from the UC Davis Department of Entomology. They show bee specialist Michael “Kim” Fondryk tending his bees in the Roy Gill almond orchard,
As mentioned in the publication, “The exact cause of CCD has not been determined. A CCD task force has been established and a number of possibilities are being investigated.”
Bees continue to die in alarming numbers. Some of the nation's beekeepers report losing from one-third to 100 percent of their bees due to the mysterious phenomenon known as CCD, in which all the adult bees abandon the hive, leaving behind the queen, brood and stored food.
As managing editor William Quarles says in The IPM Practitioner: "Despite our dependence on honey bees, we have lost about 45 percent of them over the past 65 years. According to the USDA, there were 5.9 million colonies in 1947 and about 2.4 million today."
Quarles, an IPM specialist who is executive director of the Bio-Integral Resource Center, suggests a nationwide monitoring program to confirm or deny the role of pesticides in CCD.
Quarle concludes: "If we do not take better care of our bees, there could be a significant impact on crop production. Some foods could become scarce and expensive. We should also treat our bees better because they are our friends, they enrich our planet, and it is the right thing to do."
Well said. Well said, indeed.
Michael "Kim" Fondrk