Posts Tagged: Mea McNeil
So said Senior Extension Associate Maryann Frazier of Penn State when she addressed the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's seminar last Wednesday, April 2 in Briggs Hall.
Frazier, on a trip to California to discuss her research with the Marin County Beekeepers, took time out to travel to the UC Davis campus at the invitation of Master Beekeeper/writer Mea McNeil of the Marin County Beekeepers and associate professor Neal Williams and assistant professor Brian Johnson of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Frazier, a 25-year extension specialist, expressed concern about the pesticide loads that bees are carrying, as well as the declining population of bees and other pollinators.
Beekeepers, she said, used to be much more concerned about colony collapse disorder (CCD), that mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult honey bees abandoning the hive, leaving the queen bee, brood and food stores behind. CCD surfaced in the winter of 2006, but today, when beekeepers report their winter losses, "they're not blaming CCD any more," she said.
Frazier listed the prime suspects of troubled bees as poor nutrition, mites, genetics, stress, pesticides, nosema and viruses. "Varroa mites are a huge issue," Frazier said.
Turning to pesticides, she said a 2007-2010 U.S. analysis of some 1000 samples (wax, bees and flowers) showed "an astonishing average of six pesticides per sample and up to 31 different pesticides per sample." The analysis, done by U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service Lab (USDA/AMS) screened for 171 pesticides at parts per billion. The samples involved a CCD study, apple orchard study, migratory study and submissions from individual beekeepers.
Frazier compared the interaction of pesticides in bees to the interaction of medications in humans. When you go to the doctor, you'll be asked the names of the medications you're taking, she said. The "interaction" situation is similar to what's happening with the honey bees.
In a bee colony, lethal exposures to pesticides are easy to see, Frazier noted. "You'll see dead bees, bees spinning on their backs and bees regurgitating." But the sub-lethal effects can mean "reduced longevity, reduced memory and learning, reduced immune function and poor orientation."
Marin County Beekeepers recently undertook a similar study of pesticide analysis, raising $12,000 to do so ($300 per sample). "Marin is very mindful of pesticides, probably more than any other place," Frazier said. McNeil agreed. The results are pending publication.
"If we truly want to protect our pollinators," Frazier concluded, "three things need to be addressed or changed:
- Beekeeper reliance on chemicals and drugs to manage mites and diseases
- Pest control practices, particularly agricultural land
- The approach of more regulatory agences assessing risk and protecting the environment"
As the seminar participants left Briggs Hall, many could be heard discussing the take-home message: "average of six pesticides per sample, up to 31 pesticides per sample."
A queen bee and her colony at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Maryann Frazier with the list of 171 pesticides screened in the U.S. survey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The folks who devote their entire lives to honey bees--how do they begin?
Well, if you're Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturst at the University of California, Davis, it begins in childhood with a fascination for insects and the walks in the woods with your grandfather, who explains the flora and fauna to you.
Then when you graduate from college and attend graduate school, your mentor makes sure you're stung by a bee before you can join his research team.
M.E.A. "Mea" McNeil tells the story of Eric Mussen in a fascinating two-part series in recent editions of the American Bee Journal.
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, a fixture in the Department of Entomology since 1976, will do just about anything to help the bees and the beekeeping industry. He fields calls from his Briggs Hall office from commercial beekeepers, small-scale beekeepers, hobbyists, beginning beekeepers, 4-H'ers, pest control advisors, growers, assorted industry representatives, legislators, news media and the general public.
And that's just to name a few. Fact is, he'll answer any question from the simple to the complicated.
One of my favorite photos of Eric Mussen is really of a bee stinging him at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. At the time, we were doing a hive check and an irritated bee landed on his wrist.
"It's going to sting me," he said, alerting me to a pending "photo opportunity." He knew my macro lens was ready to go. Eight frames a second.
One of them is below.
I told him he could be my "hit man" any time.
If you want to read more about "the bee guy," check out the news story posted on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website, which links to McNeil's two articles in the American Bee Journal.
Pro bee, all the way.
Honey bee stinging Eric Mussen; note the abdominal tissue as she's pulling away. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Eric Mussen speaking to visitors at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Who celebrated the most? Homo sapiens or Apis mellifera?
It was difficult to tell.
The Celebration of the Bees, held June 18 at the hillside home of a Mill Valley resident, drew avid fans of honey bees and native bees (no, honey bees are not natives; the European colonists brought them to America in 1622).
Sponsored by Savory Thymes, the event featured a honey bee talk by master beekeeper-writer Mea McNeil of San Anselmo; a native bee demonstration and talk by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; and learning stations staged by the Marin Beekeepers' Association.
Folks tasted honey, sampled meads, listened to live music, and feasted on hamburgers, hog dogs, beans, salad and freshly picked cherries and strawberries. It was all a benefit for the beekeeping projects of SuperOrganism: the Marin Pollen Project and the Marin Survivor Stock Queen Bee Project.
UC master gardener Kathy Ziccardi, who tends the hillside garden twice a week, thoughtfully numbered the native bee plants so guests could match each number to a hand-out sheet containing the common and botanical names. The plants ranged from African blue basil (Ocimum) and California phaelia (Phacelia cicutaria) to tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora).
While the guests mingled, the bees worked the flowers.
There's a "bee" in benefit.
Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shows UC master gardener Kathy Ziccardi a collection of his native bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hillside hives at the Mill Valley home. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hillside crowd listens to Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of UC Davis, talk about native bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bur marigolds (Bidens ferulifolia) brighten the garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)