Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) vowed last year to wear bees if she received at least $2500 in donations for UC student scholarships through the "Promise for Education" fundraising drive.
She did and she will. Wear honey bees that is. This week. Bee-lieve it.
Allen-Diaz chose her project to highlight the importance of pollinators to the health of agriculture and the planet.
Professional bee wrangler Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology and retired bee research scientist at UC Davis, will train bees to buzz into her open hands to sip nectar.
The event, dubbed "Operation Pollination," also will be his last professional bee stunt. "This is absolutely my last performance as a professional bee wrangler," said Gary, considered the world's best bee wrangler. "The remainder of my retirement years will be devoted to music, not bees."
Photos and/or video from the event are scheduled be posted on social media sometime Thursday, May 1.
So last week, the "B" Team did a buzz run. The "B" Team, led by Gary, included Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, yours truly and three members of UC ANR:
- Pam Kan-Rice, assistant director, News and Information Outreach Communication Services and Information Technology
- Ray Lucas, senior producer/director, Digital Media, and
- Evett Kilmartin, digital media librarian.
Was Kan-Rice a little apprehensive? Not at all. A former ag reporter based in Fresno, she felt quite comfortable around them, as Gary assured her she would. "They felt fuzzy, wuzzy and warm," she said, adding matter-of-factly: "I've never been stung by a bee."
The artificial nectar? "I make it with ordinary table sugar … about half sugar and half water," Gary said. "Then I add one tiny drop for flavoring, such as anise, that provides a fragrance that attracts bees. Almost any flavor will work fine … peppermint, lavender, etc. My artificial nectar is as good, maybe better, than natural nectar. At least the bees respond 100 percent! People don't realize that table sugar (sucrose) is perhaps the purest natural product on the market. It is identical to the sucrose found in natural nectar."
Gary retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed research publications and most recently wrote a book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees.
During his professional bee wrangler career spanning four decades, Gary trained bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits include 18 films, including “Fried Green Tomatoes”; more than 70 television shows, including the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; six commercials, and hundreds of live Thriller Bee Shows in the Western states.
He once trained bees to fly into his mouth to collect food from a small sponge saturated with his patented artificial nectar. He holds the Guinness World record (109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds) for the stunt. He is well known for wearing a head-to-toe suit of bees while "Buzzing with his B-Flat Clarinet."
So, come Thursday, the social insects in the hands of Barbara Allen-Diaz will be on the social media.
"Foraging bees do not react defensively to color whatsoever," Gary said. "Beekeepers wear white because bees can be defensive during hive manipulations and tend to react to darker colors...bees away from the hive during foraging and pollination normally do not sting unless physically molested, such as picking them up. Most stings are from yellow jackets and wasps but lay people think they have been stung by a bee."
Said Mussen: '"The few 'trained' bees that Norm will be using won't even be around a hive. Their likelihood of stinging anything or anyone is as close to zero as it can get, as long as we 'beehave.' No jerky movements. No swatting at bees around the face; no blowing the bees away from your face."
After Gary's last bee wrangling stunt, he will be totally focused on his music. He's in a duo, Mellow Fellas, and plays clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute.
"For the last two years I have also been performing in a Dixieland band, Dr. Bach and the Jazz Practitioners. We are playing lots of gigs in every imaginable venue. Our most notable performances are at the Sacramento Music Festival, a four-day event held each Memorial Day weekend. We also perform at pizza parlors, senior retirement organizations, etc. We play swing-music style, too. "
Gary also performs with a quartet, Four For Fun, that has eclectic tastes, but most tunes, he says, have a Dixieland flavor. "We'll perform for the Monterey Jazz Society on May 18. Our bass sax and trumpet players are extremely talented ladies who live in Eugene, Ore. Our banjo/guitarist/vocalist lives in Sonoma. I still play duo gigs with several piano/keyboard professionals. And I play clarinet occasionally with the Sacramento Banjo Band."
That would be the "B" flat clarinet.
Honey bees in the hands of Pam Kan-Rice. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Making a beeline for her watch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee watch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bees are drawn to the special artificial nectar placed on a plastic plant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beekeepers and almond growers are concerned--and rightfully so--about the some 80,000 bee colonies that died this year in the San Joaquin Valley almond orchards. In monetary terms, that's a loss of about $180,000. But the loss isn't just financial. It could have long-term effects.
Beekeepers believe that pesticides killed their bees after the almond pollination season ended but just before they could move their bees to another site. This is a serious blow to both industries. Growers need the bees to pollinate their almonds. Now some beekeepers are vowing this is it; they'll never to return for another almond pollination season.
"When should the colonies be allowed to leave the orchards?" he asks. "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."
"Why might beekeepers desire to move their hives out of the orchards 'early?' Once the almonds no longer provide nectar and pollen for the bees, the bees find replacement sources of food. Unfortunately, those sources may be contaminated with pesticides that almond growers would never use when the bees are present. Some common pests that surge right near the end of almond bloom include Egyptian alfalfa weevil larvae and aphids in alfalfa, and grape cutworms in vineyards. Delayed dormant sprays sometimes are being applied in other deciduous fruit orchards, even when the trees are in bloom. Often blooming weeds in the crops are attracting honey bees. If the year is really dry, the bees may be attracted to sugary secretions of aphids and other sucking bugs."
Mussen says it's "not difficult to see that accidental bee poisonings often happen. Despite our California regulations requiring beekeepers to be notified of applications of bee-toxic chemicals within a mile of the apiaries, bees fly up to four miles from their hives to find food and water. That is an area of 50 square miles in which they may find clean or contaminated food sources. Thus, growers whose fields are 'nowhere near' any known apiary locations may accidentally kill many bees with chemical applications."
"It seems," Mussen says, "that a combination of exposures of colonies to truly bee-toxic insecticides, followed by delayed effects of exposure to fungicide/IGR mixes during bloom, really set the bees way behind. The problem proved so severe that a number of beekeepers stated that they were never returning to California for almond pollination. That is not a good thing, since we really don't have too many colonies coming to almonds as it is."
In his newsletter, Mussen goes into depth about when and how bees pollinate the almonds and what could be causing the problem and how it can be resolved.
His take-home message? "Our honey bees cannot continue to be exposed to as many toxic agricultural products as they are, or we will not have enough bees to fill the pollination demand for our nuts, fruits, vegetable, forage and seed crops."
That's serious business.
A honey bee packing pollen as it forages on almonds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almond growers need bees. Without bees, there would be no almonds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It won't bloom until summer, but already many eyes are on the California buckeye.
The tree's blossoms are poisonous to honey bees. Bees are attracted to them and forage on them, but the end result of the food provisions to the colony can be deformed larval development.
We've seen bee hives within a quarter of a mile of California buckeyes (Aesculus californica). And we've seen honey bees, native bees and other pollinators foraging on the blossoms.
At the recent UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen talked about the poisonous plants. (See PowerPoint presentations.) That led to one workshop participant wondering if the flowers of the California buckeye are poisonous to native bees. (Honey bees are not native; the European colonists brought them to the Jamestown colony, Virginia, in 1622).
Responded Mussen: "My guess: either the native bees that have been in the areas around California buckeye for a long, long time are not poisoned by the pollen or they have been selected (by death of the other genetic types) to avoid the pollen, that eons of natural selection have adapted them to coexist with California buckeye while using their resources."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shared: "We know California buckeye nectar and/or pollen is toxic to honey bees from years of experience with managed hives. Toxicity to native bees and other flower visitors is not so easily determined and to my knowledge has not been investigated. The fact that populations of native bees and butterflies visit California buckeye flowers and continue to persist in areas where the tree is a dominant part of the plant community tends to confirm what Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen says about them. Some good research projects here. So we still do not know if it is the nectar, pollen, or both that may be toxic to honey bees, much less to native flower visitors."
According to gardeningguides.com, the seeds in their raw state are poisonous to humans, but native Americans learned to get around that and use them for food. They pounded the seeds into flour and then cooked the mixture. "This tree had multiple cultural uses among California Indian tribes," the website says. "Many indigenous groups utilized buckeye seeds for food, often when other plant food sources were scarce. These tribes included the Costanoan, Salinan, Kitanemuk, Serrano, Wappo, Sierra Miwok, Coast Miwok, Chumash, Kawaiisu, Northern Maidu among others. The Pomo ate the seeds even when other important food plants were plentiful. The seeds are poisonous to humans in the raw state. Thus, the nuts were cracked open with a rock, the shells removed, the seeds pounded into flour, and their toxic saponins removed in a lengthy leaching process. The meal was subsequently cooked and eaten. There are many different methods for processing and cooking buckeye seeds for food, depending upon the tribe. The seeds have medicinal properties and were cut into pieces, mixed with water, and made into suppositories for hemorrhoids by the Costanoan and Kawaiisu. The Pomo cut bark from the base of the tree and made a poultice, which was laid on a snakebite. Young buckeye shoots were sometimes used as spindles or twirling sticks in fire-making kits of the Sierra Miwok, Northern Maidu, Wappo, Yahi and other tribes. Many tribes mashed buckeye nuts and poured the contents into quiet pools to stupefy or kill fish."
And, no wildlife will eat buckeye seeds except squirrels, such as the California ground squirrel (Citellus beecheyi).
Meanwhile, the poisonous blossoms continue to beckon the honey bees--and their colonies keep producing deformed bees.
Honey bee foraging last May on a California buckeye, which is poisonous to honey bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A California buckeye blooming in May of last year on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee apparently stung a 47-year-old father on his foot and he went into anaphylactic shock. Rushed to the hospital, he died 10 days later when his kidneys and heart failed. The article reported he was 6 feet, five inches tall, and weighed 17 stones, which is 238 pounds. (One stone equals 14 pounds).
His family indicated he was unaware of his allergic reaction to bee stings.
A sad and tragic case, indeed.
We know of people who have suffered severe allergic reactions and were raced to the hospital in time and fortunately survived. One was a Northern California parks employee who did not know he was allergic to bee stings.
How many people in the United States are allergic to honey bee stings? Approximately one or two out of every 1000 people, says Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "The severity of the response, to even a single sting, varies considerably from person to person."
Immediate injections with epinephrine will usually delay the possibility someone unable to breathe. Then a quick trip to a hospital where medical personnel can administrate antihistamines, steroids "and likely more epinephrine" are in order.
"While honey bees away from their hives normally do not pose too much of a sting threat, if the bees are intoxicated by exposure to certain pesticides, they can become an abnormal sting threat at distances quite a ways from the hives. Additionally, individuals who fear a sting, with good reason, sometimes are more apt to try to shoo the bee away. If a bee already is close to stinging, the additional movement of the 'shooer,' or if there is contact with the bee, results in a much greater likelihood of a sting."
Another piece of good advice that Mussen offers: "Individuals who do not appreciate attention by bees should do everything they can to not smell good to a bee. The use of flower-scented or bee products-scented soaps, shampoos, perfumes, or colognes should be avoided. There is no documented scientific study that suggests that honey bees can detect the odor of fear in humans. But if we watch from a distance, the physical reactions of fearful people often tend to be more likely to cause stings than the behavior of the rest of us."
Photographers who capture images of worker bees foraging in flowers are often asked if they've ever been stung. After all, they're just inches away from them. The usual answer: No. The bees are too busy gathering nectar and pollen for their colonies. Stings can and do occur when the worker bees are defending their hives. Or when you accidentally step on one.
Read Mussen's information on bee and wasp stings on the UC Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) website.
This honey bee, in the process of defending her hive, is stinging Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis. That's her abdominal tissue being pulled out. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of two stings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This would include mustards, clover and buckwheat, plants that honey bees love.
Kellison, the executive director of the Santa Rosa-based Partners for Sustainable Pollination, will speak Thursday, Aug. 8 at the 13th annual Sustainable Winegrowing Field Day, to be held at the Shone Farm at 7350 Steve Olson Lane, Forestville.
The field day is sponsored by the Sonoma County Winegrowers, Santa Rosa Junior College Agriculture/Natural Resources Department and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.
Kellison, to speak at 11:30 a.m., will cover bee-friendly farming, agricultural practices to improve bee health, and why it’s important to plant bee friendly landscapes, including bee gardens. "One major factor in the decline of all bees is the lack of food plants," she says.
Wine growers and beekeepers can work together to make better bee nutrition a reality, Kellison says.
Natural forage and nutrition are essential to good honey bee health and to their ability to cope with pests, pathogens and other stressors, she points out. "Special consideration must be given to encouraging plantings of late summer and fall blooming plants to help hives survive through the winter to the next blooming season."
Among the half-dozen speakers at the field day will be Doug Gubler of UC Davis, who will discuss “Fungicide Resistance Management and Prevention for Grapevine Diseases." Lucia Varela, UC Cooperative Extension pest advisor, will provide a display on how to identify the adult Virginia creeper leafhopper.
Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PSP), founded in 2007, aims to work with farmers and beekeepers to improve the health of honey bees and support native pollinators. "We foster awareness and support for providing increased availability of flowering plants to honey bees and native pollinators," Kellison says.
Partners include local conservation districts, growers, beekeeping and farm groups, and other stakeholders.
One of the PSP advisors is Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Honey bee foraging on mustard, a good cover crop for bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Upside down honey bee on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)