Posts Tagged: Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility
Today, in honor of National Pollinator Week, we turn to the Picris echioides.
You either hate it or love it. Honey bees love it. Gardeners hate it. ?If you plant a lawn with Picris echioides, expect a visit from Code Compliance.
What's Picris echioides? Think of it as a bright yellow flower with tap roots strong enough to withstand a nuclear war.?Think European invasive weed. ?And you get: bristly oxtongue.
It looks like somewhat like a dandelion or sowthistle. It’s a broadleafed biennial weed with toothed leaves (ox tongue) found throughout California. It’s an important source of nectar and pollen, especially in the spring during the early bee brood rearing when many other flowers aren't blooming.
Bees produce a dazzling honey with it: the color of amber and the aroma of a freshly picked floral bouquet.
Watch a bee nectaring a bristly oxtongue and you're in for a real treat--if you can get past "noxious weed" epithets or thoughts of waging a nuclear war.
The bees today at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis were lovin' it.
They're now back in Vietnam, but for three days they went on a honey of a tour.
UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976 and a worldwide authority on honey bees, guided a six-member contingent of scientists from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on a three-day tour.
That included a day at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the UC Davis campus; and two daylong Central Valley tours that encompased two beekeeping operations, a pollination operation, and a lavender farm/beekeeping agrictourism location.
The Vietnamese group included Dr. Nguyen Hay, vice rector of Nong Lam University; Dr. Bui Van Mien, head of scientific research management office and head of the Department of Development Food Product, Nong Lam University; Dr. Le Minh Hoang, bee specialist, Institute of Research on Environment and Biotechnology; Dr. Nguyen Tai, general manager, Tan Phat Co.; Hoang Nhu Tung, director of Huy Hoan Co., Ltd.; and Luong Hong Quang, faculty of Food Science and Technology, Nong Lam University, who also served as the interpreter.
California ranks with North Dakota, South Dakota and Florida as the four leading honey-producing states, Mussen told the scientists. “The rankings are weather dependent, based on rainfall. Here in California, we annually average 20 million pounds of honey and 400,000 pounds of beeswax. The value of honey production in California varies from $16 to $30 million a year.”
The distance separating Ho Chi Minh City and Davis is some 8550 miles, but the camaraderie that developed among the U.S. and Vietnamese scientists drew them closer.
Honey bees, those golden social insects, brought them together.
Learn more about the visit and what Mussen told them.
Opening a hive
All About the Bees
Sheridan Miller's gift to UC Davis for honey bee research was both generous and thoughtful.
The 11-year-old Bay Area resident raised $733 for the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility through the sale of jars of honey, candles, baked goods and a self-penned booklet on the plight of honey bees.
The fifth grader and her family (father Craig, mother Annika and sister Annelie, 8) traveled from their home in Marin County to present the check to Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey guided the group on a tour of the Laidlaw facility and apiary.
“It’s very thoughtful and generous of a little girl to think of the plight of the honey bees and to raise funds for research,” Kimsey said. "We are overwhelmed.”
Said Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976: “I really appreciate the fact that so many members of the general public have become concerned about the plight of honey bees. I am particularly impressed by individuals such as Sheridan who have devoted so much time and effort in really trying to improve the health and longevity of the honey bees.”
"Honey bees pollinate delicious fruits, vegetables and even nuts," Sheridan wrote. "If they were to disappear, our food source would consist of wheat, rice and corn."
Sheridan's dedication deeply illustrates what one person can do to help save the bees.
Sheridan cannot imagine a world without bees. Neither can we.
A honey bee newsletter, "From the UC Apiaries" newsletter, written by Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology Faculty, provides linformative and educational information for beekeepers and those interested in the plight of the honey bee.
In his latest edition, Mussen writes:
"Since years of study on colony collapse disorder (CCD) of honey bees have not produced the smoking gun (a single cause) for the malady, scientists are turning to potential multiple causes. The studies are designed to try to find synergistic interacttions of chemicals in the hive that may be damaging the bees. The dictionary definition of synergism is: interaction of discrete agencies or agents such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects. In other words, one plus one equals more than two. The question is: Can pesticide residues, infectious agents, and/or malnutrition combine to be much worse for the bees than simply the additive effect of each alone?"
To read how he answers this key question, see the March-April edition on his Web site./span>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>
Ever seen bees at a watering hole?
Bees not only bring back nectar, pollen and propolis to the hive, but also water.
"Water dilutes the concentrated food, maintains humidity in the brood nest, and it's used to air-condition the hive, like an evaporative cooler," said Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who's entering his 33rd year as a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Beekeepers use a variety of watering devices to make sure their colonies have a steady supply of water. For example, some beekeepers slant a wooden board under the slow drip of an outdoor faucet. Others offer a shallow pan of water or a birdbath.
What's important is this: Bees prefer to stand where it's dry when they're taking a drink.
At the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, a regularly watered plant provides a favorite source of water. The distinct odor of the water makes it easier for bees to find or return to the source.
The Laidlaw facility's "watering hole" is an example of a honey bee watering device that beekeepers can use "to prevent bees from becoming a nuisance, or a perceived nuisance, to neighbors," Mussen said. "If beekeepers don't provide a water source, the bees may head over to a neighbor's dog bowl, sprinklers, birdbath or hanging damp laundry."
So, what do you do about those pesky mosquitoes that lay their eggs in standing water? Buy floating mosquito tablets that break up in the water. "That strain of bacteriuum will not harm the honey bees," Mussen said.