Backyard Orchard News
The Almond Board of California will unveil its Honey Bee Best Management Practices tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 16) in an ongoing effort to promote and protect bee health.
The board will do so by holding a press conference at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time with questions directed at Richard Waycott, CEO, Almond Board of California; Bob Curtis, associate director of Agricultural Affairs, Almond Board of California and Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
It promises to be a comprehensive set of Best Management Practices or BMPs. Media members who wish to participate can access this page.
Remember last spring when beekeepers in the San Joaquin Valley almond orchards reported losing 80,000 colonies? Beekeepers believe that pesticides killed their bees after the almond pollination season ended but just before they could move their bees to another site.
"When should the colonies be allowed to leave the orchards?" Mussen asked. "When pollination no longer is happening. That does not mean that the bees should remain in place until the last petal falls from the last blossom."
Communication is key to a good BMP. The Almond Board recently published three informational pieces, “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds,” "Honey Bee Best Management Practices Quick Guide for Almonds,” and “Applicator/Driver Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds” (in English and Spanish).
The topics include:
- Preparing for arrival
- Assessing hive strength and quality
- Protecting honey bees at bloom
- Honey bees and insecticides
- Honey bees and fungicides
- Using integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to minimize agricultural sprays
- Honey bees and self-compatible almond varieties
- Best management practices for pest control during almond bloom
- Removing honey bees from the orchard
- Addressing suspected pesticide-related honey bee losses
- What to expect in an investigation
The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), headed by Dennis van Engelsdorp, produced three short videos as the result of a 2012-2013 beekeeping survey. Project Apis m (PAm) published some of the information online about varroa mites, nosema, honey bee nutrition and the like.
It's important for almond growers and beekeepers to keep the lines of communication open. Bees make a "bee line" toward the almond blossoms, but the growers and the beekeepers don't always make a timely "bee line" toward one another to resolve issues that surface.
Honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almond orchard buzzing with bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The western migration of the Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) to their overwintering sites along the California coast is underway.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, recorded four Monarchs at his Suisun monitoring site yesterday. He's been monitoring butterflies in Central California for some four decades.
This morning, a male Monarch fluttered into our yard to sip some nectar from a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (A distinguishing feature of the male Monarch: a small black spot on each of its two hindwings. See photo below.)
Monarchs head for sites along the coast, including Santa Cruz, Monterey, Natural Bridges and Pacific Grove, to overwinter, Shapiro noted.
"There used to be a small site in Fairfield, near the old Juvenile Hall on West Texas Street, in a row of Eucalyptus. It's been gone for decades. Some years they try to overwinter in Marin and Sonoma counties, but usually give up and shift south in December. In the past few years there has been a little winter breeding on the south coast. This was never recorded before."
The migration of the Monarchs to overwintering sites in central Mexico is well-publicized, but some monarchs head for the California coast. According to the monarchwatch.org website, monarchs east of the continental divide generally migrate to central Mexico from as far away as Ontario, Canada. "Monarchs west of the divide fly to the coast of California to spend the winter. They cluster together on tree limbs during the winter months in California by the thousands, and in central Mexico by the millions." (Download the PDF on the monarchwatch.org site.)
We're glad to see the huge national campaign to plant milkweed, the host plant of the Monarchs. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has posted a wealth of information on its website for us to take action. The Monarch population has declined by more than 90 percent in under 20 years.
“Monarch butterflies are declining due to loss of habitat,” said Monarch Watch director Chip Taylor. “To assure a future for monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority.”
It also helps to provide nectar resources for the Monarchs to help them along in their migration. In our yard, they like the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and blue beard (Caryopteris × clandonensis). See list of Monarchs' favorite plants on the monarchwatch.org site.
Meanwhile, an occasional Monarch flutters into our family bee/butterfly garden to sip some nectar. Sometimes territorial native bees chase them away but the Monarchs return, determined to grab some flight fuel.
A male Monarch nectaring on Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of the Monarch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Monarch gets ready for flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
On September 30, an in-depth workshop was held at the UC ANR Lindcove Research and Extension Center to discuss the biology and management of California red scale. Twenty seven participants spent the day viewing scales under microscopes and learning about Aphytis and Comperiella wasps. The hot topic (literally) this year, above and beyond the usual complexities of managing scale, was the much higher than average accumulation of heat units. Normally there are about 4 generations of scale per year in the San Joaquin Valley, but this year a 5th generation is developing. This is the third year in a row that temperatures have been above the 30 year average. We also discussed the fact that systemic neonicotinoid insecticide use is becoming very common place and repeated use of the systemic neonicotinoids results in a build up of scale on the wood that is difficult to control with natural enemies or insecticides. So, the combined problems of scale build up due to changes in insecticide use patterns and high average daily temperatures have resulted in outbreaks of California red scale in the San Joaquin Valley.
Workshop participants Michelle and Greg
Honey bees and the Blue Angels...
Honey bees sometimes seem to fly in formation over such plants as flowering artichokes, but their precision--if you could call it that--never matches that of the Blue Angels.
For one, the pollen-packing bees are wobbly and bump into one another. But they always seem to know where they're going and how to get there. They're the pride and joy of the agricultural world as they collect pollen and nectar.
The Blue Angels' flight demonstration squadron is the pride and joy of the U.S. Navy. In fact, their mission is " to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach."
The Blue Angels' show drew thousands of spectators on Sunday in San Francisco. We watched the aerobatics from the deck on the Flying Fish charter sportsfishing boat. We we all surged with patriotism, excitement and awe as the Blue Angels maneuvered their Hornets into diamond and delta formations, solos, slow passes, barrel rolls and tight turns.
Honey bees engage in their own kind of air show as they carry their pollen and nectar back to the hive. They don't do diamond and delta formations or barrel rolls, but back at the hive, they know how to perform waggle and round dances, making slow passes and tight turns.
Honey bee "squadron" aiming for the flowering artichokes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue Angels maneuvering their Hornets into a diamond formation. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bees buzzing by, performing their solo missions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue Angels roar past the city of San Francisco. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
She described it to a "T."
That would be "T" for territorial.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, spotlighted the European wool carder bee in her current edition of the Bohart Museum Society newsletter.
The males are aggressive. Their territorial behavior is "in your face." They will chase away bees, butterflies and even small birds, like hummingbirds. "They will also check out humans, flying up to them and hovering," Kimsey says.
But it's not something we should be worried about. The wool carder bee is a pollinator.
"We tend to think of all exotic species of insects as being pests," Kimsey wrote. "By and large, that's true but there are exceptions. The wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum, may be one of these exceptions."
She describes it as a species of European leafcutter bee "that has successfully colonized North America. However, North America isn't the only place these bees have invaded. They are now found in north Africa, South America, Asia, the Canary Islands and even in New Zealand. World domination is ahead."
The wool carder bee (so named because the female scrapes or cards leaf fuzz for her nest) was accidentally introduced into the U.S. from Europe in the early 1960s and was first discovered in New York State. It spread quickly across the continent. Scientists found it in Davis, Calif., in 2007.
They're about the size of a honey bee, Kimsey says "but they are brightly marked with yellow on a black background with a bright yellow face. Only honey bees in Disney movies are black and yellow. Males are considerably larger than females, and have a spine on either side of the last two abdominal segments and three spines on the last segment."
Those spines have been mistaken for stingers, but only females have stingers.
We've seen the males protect patches of lamb's ear, catmint, foxgloves, oregano, cosmos, African blue basil, and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our yard. They mean bees-ness. We've seen honey bees working frantically, trying to forage as quickly as possible without getting targeted. We've also seen some of them crippled on the ground.
The female wool carder bees build their nests, Kimsey says, in rotting wood or preexisting tunnels, such as beetle burrows.
Kimsey mentioned that the Bohart Museum scientist Tom Zavortink experienced female carder bees "carding" wool from his socks!
The Bohart Museum Society newsletter is mailed to its members. The society is a campus and community support organization, and like the Bohart Museum, is dedicated to teaching, research and public service. For more information on the society, including how to join, see this page.
Male wool carder bee heads for the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Wool carder bee zeroing in on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male wool carder bee attacking a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)