Posts Tagged: Harry H Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility
It's nice to remember the honey bee on Valentine's Day. You'll see many Valentine cards inscribed with "Bee My Valentine" and featuring a photo of a bee.
Many of those photos depict a queen bee, the mother of all bees in the hive.
To be a queen, she'll need to be fed royal jelly as a larva. The nurses bees feed the otther larvae a regular worker diet that includes pollen.
"Queen larvae are fed royal jelly throughout larval development, providing a nutritional stimulus that causes them to develop into fully functional females with large ovaries," writes apiculturist Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, in his book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
"Queens develop from egg to adult in about 16 days," Gary writes. A queen usually lives about two to three years, but most beekeepers re-queen the colony after a year.
In peak season, a queen bee will lay about 2000 eggs--so that's 2000 mouths to feed.
"A few queens live for as long as two or three years, but old queens are a liability to the colony due to diminished egg-laying capacity, a principal cause of reduced colony populations and reduced honey production," Gary says. "Their performance usually diminishes long before they die, similar to humans."
Gary also says in his book that egg-laying capability "is not the only measure of a queen's performance. Queens produce pheromones that greatly affect the activities, especially foraging activity of workers. Pheromone production diminishes in quality and quantity as queens age."
That's something that the Valentine Day cards don't tell you. Neither do they tell you that after a swarm, the first virgin queen to emerge from the series of newly constructed queen cells in the colony will sting her competitors so she can take over the hive.
Or, as Gary writes, "Rival queens engage in fierce stinging attacks until only one virgin queen remains. Virgin queens also initiate the destruction of capped queen cells containing their younger counterparts and sting them before they can complete development. This is the only time queens ever use their stingers."
Not a sweet thought on Valentine's Day!
Queen bee (with dot) and worker bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another queen bee in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The queen and her retinue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"R" is for research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Faciity at the University of California, Davis.
What's it all about?
The Laidlaw facility is a nexus for diverse bee research and scientists from throughout the world.A poster hanging in the Laidlaw facility explains: "We provide cutting-edge research on basic bee biology, genetics, pollination and conservation. We address international concerns about bee health and meet the needs of California's multibillion dollar agriculture industry. Our program combines research on honey bees and native species to promote sustainabiity of pollinators and pollination."
The researchers include:
Honey bee specialists: Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen; bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and manager of the Laidlaw facility (she trained under Laidlaw); bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk who manages the Robert Page Honey Bee Pollen Hoarding Selection Program; and Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Postdoctural Fellow Michelle Flenniken. An insect virus researcher, Flenniken investigates the viruses and other microbes associated with honey bees using a molecular biology approach.
Native pollinator specialists: Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor; and Neal Williams, assistant professor. Thorp "officially" retired in 1994 but continues to conduct research on bees (Apoidea) with a focus on native bees, their ecology, systematics, biodiversity, conservation and pollination relationships. Williams says his lab "explores fundamental questions about the evolution and ecology of bees and pollination as well as applied research on crop pollination and native bee conservation within the context of global change and agricultural sustainability."
Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at UC Berkeley, is closely associated with UC Davis. Her Berkeley lab explores "the conservation and sustainable management of ecosystem services such as pollination and pest control in agricultural settings." Her group is involved with several research projects through the Laidlaw facility.
Other visiting scientists include Stephen Hendrix of the University of Iowa; Susan Monheit, UC Davis; Lora Morandin, UC Berkeley; and Alexandra Klein and Claire Brittain, both with the University of Goettingen, Gemany.
Another exciting research program at UC Davis involves the aging and lifespan of the honey bee. Robert Page, former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and now founding director of the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, is a co-principal investigator on this research. It's part of the federally funded Biodemographic Determinants of Lifespan, directed by UC Davis entomology professor James R. Carey.Another highlight at the Laidlaw facility is the newly planted Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden designed to be a year-around food source for bees and an educational experience for visitors. Also new is the Campus Buzzway, a quarter-acre wildflower garden to be planted this fall.
"R" is for research. "B" is for bees.
A Bee Wave