Posts Tagged: National Honey Bee Day
Saturday, Aug. 17 is National Honey Bee Day and it's time for a tribute, a salute and a cheer, all combined into one: Go, bees!
We're glad to see concerned citizens, organizations and businesses contributing to bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of California, Davis.
State Regent Debra Jamison adopted the motto, “Bees are at the heart of our existence” and vowed to support research to help the beleaguered bees.
“Every state regent has a fund-raising project; I chose honey bees,” said Jamison, whose first name, Debra, means “bee” in Hebrew. “I have had a lifelong love and respect for bees and I spent a lot of my childhood watching them, attracting them with sugar water, catching and playing with them and even dissecting them during a time when I imagined myself to be a junior scientist.”
“Back in those days, there was an abundance of bees, usually observed by this kid in her family’s backyard full of clover blossoms—something you rarely see any more due to spraying of pre-emergents and other weed killers.”
The funds are earmarked for the lab of bee scientist/assistant professor Brian Johnson. His graduate student, Gerard Smith, researches the effect of pesticide exposure in the field on honey bee foraging behavior, and graduate student Cameron Jasper studies the genetic basis of division of labor in honey bees.
Then just last week Häagen-Dazs, a strong supporter of bee research, and the name behind the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis, announced it would donate $5 to UC Davis bee research for every download of its Häagen-Dazs Concerto Timer app--up to $75,000.
The way it works, you download the free app at I-Tunes with your I-Phone or I-Pad. You remove your carton of Häagen-Dazs premier ice cream from the freezer and point your I-Phone or I-Pad at the lid. Voila! Two minutes of concerto music, and that's just the right amount of time for your ice cream to soften or temper.
Häagen-Dazs, besides its continuing, generous support of the garden, funded the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Scholar Fellowship to enable virus researcher Michelle Flenniken to study the viruses that plaque honey bees.
Then there's the group of donors that came forth to make the bee garden happen. The garden, located next to the Laidlaw facility on Bee Biology Road, was planted in the fall of 2009 as a year-around food source for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators, as a way to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to provide visitors with ideas of what to plant in their own gardens. Donors? You can see their names on the donor page of the Laidlaw facility website. They include the garden designers (Ann F. Baker Donald Sibbett, Jessica Brainard and Chika Kurotaki); landscape contractor Cagwin & Dorward; and Wells Fargo, which funded the bee-utiful bee sculpture in the haven created by Donna Billick of Davis.
Youth worried about the plight of the honey bees came forth to help. Marin County resident Sheridan Miller began supporting bee research at age 11 and continues to do so through various fundraising projects. She's in high school now--and guess what? She's a beekeeper, too.
Periodically, people ask how to donate to UC Davis Bee Research. Just as Häagen-Dazs has an app for that (a concerto timer), the department has a donor page for that. Folks can make their choice(s). This page lists donors who supported the haven at its inception; more names will be added soon. There's also an online donor button on the Laidlaw home page.
Meanwhile, Saturday, Aug. 17 is National Honey Bee Day and a time to make our voices heard. Can't you just hear the queen bees piping?
Honey bee heading toward tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Italian honey bee nectaring lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Worker bee sculpture, "Miss Bee Haven," by Donna Billick of Davis, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion. This anchors the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Shirley Polykoff (1909-1998), the advertising legend who coined the words "Is it true blondes have more fun?" for a Clairol jingle, raised awareness of blondes, insinuating that "gentlemen prefer blondes."
But when it comes to bees, the most common honey bee in the United States are blondes, also known as Italians or Apis mellifera ligustica. But they have no clue--nor should they--about "fun." Neither do the darker bees, the Carniolans (Apis mellifera carnica) and the Caucasians (Apis mellifera caucasica).
"Fun" is not something attributable to bees. Work is.
On Saturday, Aug. 17, when we celebrate National Honey Bee Day, it's time to think about all the work bees do in gathering pollen, nectar, propolis (plant resin) and water for their colonies. Pollen is their protein; nectar, their carbohydrate.
"Honey bees are the only insects that produce human food," write bee scientists Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile in the fourth edition of their book,The Beekeeper's Handbook, published by Comstock Publishing Associates, a division of the Cornell University Press.
They list a number of "fun facts" about bees, data gleaned from a number of sources. They include:
- It takes 12 honey bees to make one teaspoon of honey,
- It takes 1-500 flowers to gather a full load, depending on the kind of flower and nectar/pollen production,
- In one trip, a honey bee can visit about 75 flowers and up to 3000 flowers.
- Bees from the same hive visit about 225,000 flowers a day.
- On average, a honey bee produces 1/12th teaspoon (5 drops) of honey in her lifetime.
- A bee has to visit about 2 million flowers to collect enough nectar to make one pound of honey.
- The energy in one ounce of honey would provide one bee with enough energy to fly around the world.
- About 50 to 80 percent of foragers collect nectar.
- Fifteen to 30 percent of foragers collect pollen.
- Fifteen percent of foragers collect both pollen and nectar.
- There are 20,000 to 6 million pollen grains on one bee, depending on the flower species.
- One colony can eat 44 to 65 pounds of pollen a year.
Those are just some of the fun facts in this comprehensive, well-written, well-illustrated book. Sammataro is a research entomologist at the USDA-ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Ariz., and Avitabile is a longtime beekeeper and emeritus professor of biology at the University of Connecticut, Waterbury.
It's the kind of book that beekeepers, from beginning to advanced, will dog-ear.
An Italian honey bee nectaring on phacelia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee working phacelia blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Italian honey bee sipping nectar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
To commemorate National Honey Bee Day, Jefferson Exchange host Geoffrey Riley of Jefferson Public Radio, Southern Oregon University, recently booked a trio of experts to talk about honey bees.
The broadcast, aired Aug. 15, included an interview of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
If you want to gain an overall perspective of what's going on in the bee industry, then you need to listen to the broadcast.
In the interview, Mussen relates:
- The United States presently has some 2.5 million colonies of honey bees, kept mostly by commercial beekeepers
- One third of our daily diet is pollinated by honey bees
- California has one-fifth of the nation's bees, "but most of the apiculturists who do bee studies--they're east of the Rockies"
- The difference between the term "hive" and "colony" is this: A hive is the container where bees live--it could be a hollow tree, a barbecue grill, or in an apiary. A "colony" is comprised of live bees and the brood, including the eggs, larva and pupa.
- Right after World War II, the number of bee colonies in the United States totaled about 5 million. Today, the number of colonies "is half that." One of the reasons is the decreasing number of small farms, traditionally known to keep hives. Another reason: the introduction of the tracheal mite and the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) into the United States in the 1980s.
Between parasites, diseases, malnutrition, stress and pesticides, "The bees are just having a horrible time getting their act together and surviving through all that," Mussen told Riley.
The mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD), characterized by adult bees abandoning their hive, leaving behind the queen, the brood and the food stores, is also puzzling, Mussen said. He attributed CCD to multiple factors, but one thing is for sure: "Something is hurting the immune system."
As for pesticides, "the bees are swimming in a sea of chemicals," Mussen declared.
Following the interview, a listener emailed Mussen: "I heard you on the Jefferson Exchange the other day. I have studied honey bees for a long time, and you have the most comprehensive grasp of their biology, behavior, health--and their economic and historical relationship to people--that I have seen."
That is the ultimate compliment.
Mussen, a noted authority on honey bees, joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1976. He plans to retire in 2014, and already the bee industry is moaning the loss of his expertise.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen talks to a tour group at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Exension apiculturist Eric Mussen, a past president of the Western Apicultural Society (WAS), speaks at a recent WAS conference in Healdsburg, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)