Posts Tagged: Elizabeth Frost
She didn't come home last night.
The little honey bee at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, wound up in a spider's stomach.
This morning we stopped by the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden planted last fall next to the facility, and a spider was having breakfast--one of Susan Cobey's New World Carniolans.
We spotted the same spider chowing down on a ladybug during the grand opening celebration on Saturday, Sept. 11, and we remember saying "Good, it didn't get a bee."
This time it did.
I jokingly asked beekeeper Elizabeth Frost, staff resource associate who works with Cobey at the Laidlaw facility, if she were missing any bees. (After all there are "only" about six million of them in the apiary.)
It would have been hilarious if she had said "Did a bed check. One unaccounted for."
Bee and the Spider
Tame that tiger.
Wilton beekeeper Brian Fishback, president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association, stopped Friday at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, and a friendly Western tiger swallowtail greeted him.
At least, it seemed quite friendly.
Fishback and Laidlaw staff research associate Elizabeth “Liz” Frost paused to watch the butterfly (Papilio rutulus) glide in and out of the flower garden in front of the facility.
Fishback held out his hand. The butterfly obliged and touched down for just a moment.
This year is a good year for Western tiger swallowtails.
There’s an outbreak--or an elevated population--in the area, says noted butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis. “I’ve seen as many as 11 a day in Davis recently, and the outbreak ranges from as far west as Vallejo and as far east as Reno.”
This is the second year for elevated populations of the tiger, Shapiro says. The epicenter seems to be Davis.The colorful butterfly visits a variety of hosts, including California yerba santa, milkweed, lilies, lilacs, coyote mint, California buckeye, sycamore, privet and sweet gum.
It doesn't mind being around the 6 million honey bees (from 110 hives) in the apiary at the Laidlaw facility, either.
Spreading Its Wing
Sip of Nectar
Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
Drones have no stingers, so they can't sting. In fact, their sole purpose in life is to mate with the virgin queen bee on her maiden flight. After mating, the drones die. If they don't mate, they won't survive the winter. Their sisters, the worker bees, kick them out of the hive in the fall to conserve the precious food resources.
But it was "all hail the drones" during a recent field trip by half-a-dozen second graders from the Grace Valley Christian Academy, Davis.
Before the tour, Elizabeth Frost, staff research associate and beekeeper at the facility, opened the hives and collected a handful of drones.
When the second graders arrived, Frost invited them to "touch and hold the drones." The drones felt warm and fuzzy.
And that's exactly how the young visitors felt about the tour.
To show their appreciation, the second graders crafted a clever "thank you" card for her. The outside of the card depicted the outside of a bee hive. The inside: colorful bees!
"Thank you, Elizabeth," the inscription read. "The students talked about the drones and beekeeper outfits for days. Your hard work was appreciated."
That's one lesson that won't be forgotten. thanks to an enterprising UC Davis beekeeper and a handful of drones.
When the Antioch Charter Academy, a middle school in Contra Costa County, toured the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis on Tuesday, May 4, they learned all about honey bees and native bees.
Tour coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology set up three activity stations, visited by groups of 13.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, talked to them about bee biology, bee communication and colony collapse disorder; Yang and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, discussed bee diversity, bee monitoring, bee identification and foraging behavior; and to top it off, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and Elizabeth Frost displayed bee equipment, discussed the breeding program and then opened several hives.
The students singled out the three castes: queen bee, drones and worker bees. They admired the many different colors of pollen. They gingerly picked up drones (male bees have no stingers).
Then at the urging of Cobey and Frost, the teenagers dipped their fingers into the honey.
Straight from the hive.
Their verdict: "Wow, this is good!"
A taste of honey, a picture of contentment, and a greater admiration for the work of honey bees.
Many Colors of Pollen
A Taste of Honey
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