Posts Tagged: Billy Synk
This is the time of year when scores of prospective beekeepers contact Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology for advice on beginning beekeeping.
Many want to keep a hive or two in their backyards but don't know where to start.
It's not as simple as purchasing a queen bee off the Internet. You have to buy packaged bees or collect a swarm to start a colony.
"If you haven't started (beginning beekeeping) yet, purchasing a honey bee queen won't do it," Mussen advised a Northern California woman today. "You need 2-3 pounds (6-9,000 bees) of worker bees to get things going. So, the new beekeeper usually either buys 'packaged bees' or collects a swarm."
"Individual queens are purchased to replace queens in colonies that already are going, or to add to frames of bees and brood--not including the old queen--that are removed from a strong colony, later in the season. That is called 'splitting' or 'dividing' the colony to get a total of two.
Mussen, who joined UC Davis in 1976 and will be retiring in June, always advises newcomers to join a local beekeeping association and read magazines and books.
"As for textbooks, it depends on how the bees are going to be kept. In what I refer to as 'normal' Langstroth hives, the book Beekeeping for Dummies is relatively good," Mussen told her. "If the bees are headed for a top-bar hive, then Les Crowder's book on that subject is reasonably priced. Smaller 'backyard' texts have recently been published by UC Davis emeritus professor Norman Gary (Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees); Bee Culture magazine editor Kim Flottum (The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden), and University of Florida emeritus professor Malcolm Sanford, who is the co-author with Richard E Bonney of Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees: Honey Production, Pollination, Bee Health.
Mussen also pointed out that a newly revised rendition of the beekeeping bible, The Hive and the Honey Bee will soon replace the 1992 edition. "It is one of the most comprehensive texts out there," he said.
What about keeping bees along a busy street?
"Having a busy thoroughfare over your back fence will be problematic only if most of the bee-attractive water and flowers producing nectar and pollen are on the other side of the road," Mussen noted. "Then a bunch of the bees will become hood ornaments or windshield smudges. Be sure to have a good bee-watering set-up in place before the bees are moved in."
Prospective beekeepers also need to contact their local Cooperative Extension office for rules and regulations.
One very enduring part of being a first-year beekeeper: "The first year should be the smoothest," he said. "After that, pests and diseases become a concern."
Musssen writes a bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Davis apiaries, which can be downloaded free from his website. He also writes the periodic Bee Briefs and one includes Getting Started in Beekeeping.
This photo of beekeeper Billy Synk, manager and staff research associate of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, appears on the cover of the February edition of the American Bee Journal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Or to put it more precisely, three Bombus melanopygus queens.
Early this morning, in between dark and dawn, three black-tailed bumble bees buzzed around our porch lights. Now, bumble bees don't venture out at night and they certainly don't head for porch lights--they head for flowers in the daytime--so immediately we're hypothesizing an infestation by the parasitoid phorid fly, Apocephalus borealis, aka "zombie fly."
We had earlier heard Professor John Hafernik of San Francisco State University discuss this fly at an entomological meeting in Sacramento.
The female flies lay their eggs in bumble bees, wasps and honey bees. Certainly not a nice thing to do. Eventually the eggs hatch into larvae and emerge from the dead host.
It was Hafernik who discovered that the "zombie fly" infests honey bees. He and his colleagues published their work, "A New Threat to Honey Bees, the Parasitic Phorid Fly, Apocephalus borealis," in PLOS One in January 2012. They revealed that the parasitized, disoriented honey bees leave their hives at night and head for the lights.
"After being parasitized by the fly, the bees abandon their hives in what is literally a flight of the living dead to congregate near lights," said Andrew Core of the Hafernik lab. 'When we observed the bees for some time—the ones that were alive—we found that they walked around in circles, often with no sense of direction."
Zombies. Or "ZomBees."
Hafernik and crew sounded the alert. They launched a citizen science project called ZomBee Watch, sponsored by the San Francisco State University Department of Biology, the San Francisco State University Center for Computing for Life Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Fast forward to today...and the three bumble bees buzzing around our porch lights. That erratic, uncharacteristic, porch-light behavior prompted us to take them to native pollinator specialist/bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Thorp is a co-author of the pending Bumble Bees of North America: An identification Guide (Princeton University Press).
It was he who identified them as Bombus melanopygus queens.
Thorp placed them in his "comfy" bumble bee-rearing chamber/observation box in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, provided nourishment (which the ladies accepted gracefully) and now it's wait-and-see.
Phorid flies? Nematodes? Something else? Nothing?
Don't know. However, as of 5 p.m. today, all three are alive.
"Just checked your three fuzzy ladies," Thorp reported. "They are still active and doing well."
In addition to carbohydrates, Thorp gave them a protein patty made by staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk, manager of the Laidlaw facility.
"I'll put in a pollen lump or two tomorrow," Thorp said, "to see if any are interested in becoming broody and starting a nest."/span>
The "porch light" bumble bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A little nourishment for this queen bumble bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is the bumble bee-rearing chamber/observation box that Robbin Thorp built. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Thursday, Oct. 17 is Pest Management Day at UC Davis.
That's when the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) partners with the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources for the 21st Century Invasive Pest Management Symposium Series: "Globalization, Climate Change and Other 21st Century Challenges" at the UC Davis Conference Center.
It's actually the fourth in a series of symposia on invasive pest management. This one deals with "Invasion Biology (Part 2): Invasive Insects, Disease and Nematodes." Daniel Simberloff, professor of environmental science ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, will keynote the symposium.
Who will be there? According to organizer David Pegos, CDFA special assistant for plant health, the attendees represent non-governmental organizations, industry, academia and other interested parties. "In addition to the CDFA leadership team, represented will be the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, the County Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association, UC Cooperative Extension, and the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program," Pegos said.
The goals of the symposium are two-fold: (1) to explore 21st century invasive pest management challenges and possible improvements to CDFA policies and procedures, and (2) to foster communication and understanding among the diverse people involved in California's food and agricultural systems.
But today, a group of conference attendees met at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road to look not at pests, but at beneficial insects—honey bees.
Billy Synk, who wears three hats (beekeeper, staff research associate and manager of the Laidlaw facility), talked about bees and their health, answered questions, and then the group donned protective gear to take a close look at a colony.
Synk pointed out the queen bee, the workers and the immature brood, much to the fascination of the group. Many had never been that close to bees before. "I stepped on one once," said one woman.
That was about as close as she could get--until now.
Billy Synk, manager of the Ladilaw facility, shows comb to the crowd in the Laidlaw conference room. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Visitors donned bee veils to examine the hives. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Billy Synk shows a frame to the visitors. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of bees at work. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was a gorgeous day to be out in an almond orchard.
Staff research associate Billy Synk of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis was out tending the research bees earlier placed in two Dixon almond orchards.
Volunteer Randall Cass, who is seeking his master’s degree in international agricultural development at UC Davis, accompanied Synk on his rounds. Cass has previous experience working with beekeepers in Chile. And the Laidlaw bees? The 49 bee boxes are part of a research project launched by Brian Johnson, assistant professor of entomology.
The almond blossoms perfumed the air as bees buzzed back and forth carrying their loads of pollen to feed the offspring. They're gearing up for the big spring build-up. Soon the queen bee will be laying 2000 eggs a day.
The grass looked exceptionally green and the almond blossoms exceptionally delicate. You could almost hear the quiet and the excitement of spring.
Billy Synk (left) shows Randall Cass a frame. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beekeeper Billy Synk checks the productivity. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Checking out the bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of the Laidlaw research bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Now that's Italian!
The Italian honey bee (below) nectaring on a zinnia at the University of California, Davis, is striking for two reasons: she's as gold as starthistle honey in the sunlight and she's a very young forager.
"That is a pretty young bee to be a forager," said Exension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "Look at all that baby hair."
When European colonists introduced honey bees (Apis mellifera) into the Jamestown colony (now Virginia) in 1622, it wasn't the Italian. It was what beekeepers call the "dark bee" subspecies of Northern Europe, Apis mellifera mellifera.
The Italian or Apis mellifera ligustica didn't arrive in America until 1859. "The American beekeeping public was enamored with the newly available yellow and gentle bees," bee breeder-geneticist and co-author Susan Cobey wrote in a chapter of the book, Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions. "As a result, Italian-type bees form the basis for most present-day commercial beekeeping stocks in the U.S. Following the arrival and success of honey bees from Italy, U.S. beekeepers developed an interest to try other honey bee subspecies."
Indeed, it took 231 for years for honey bees to arrive in California. Beekeeper Christopher A. Shelton introduced honey bees to the Golden State in 1853, establishing an apiary just north of San Jose. (Check out the bee plaque at the San Jose International Airport.)
Cobey, of UC Davis acclaim, serves as the project leader of the Honey Bee Stock Improvement Program, working with Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, and other scientists.They aim to enhance the genetic diversity of domestic bee stocks through the importation of honey bee germplasm (drone sperm).
Meanwhile, this week over at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk (who worked with Cobey at Ohio State University) is extracting honey.
If you look at the backlit honey, it looks just like the young Italian honey bee that Mussen says "is pretty young to be a forager."
Italian honey bee forages on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
UC Davis staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk admires a freshly bottled jar of honey to the sun. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)