Posts Tagged: Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility
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)
When youngsters meet Alyssa Fine, the first thing they ask is “Do you ever get stung?”
They also ask if the bee population is “still” declining and if she’s a beekeeper.
Yes, yes, and yes.
Alyssa Fine, 23, of Monongahela, Penn., is accustomed to answering questions. As the 2012 American Honey Bee Queen, sponsored by the American Beekeeping Federation, she’s an ambassador to the beekeeping and honey industries. One of her responsibilities is to educate the public about the importance of bees and the merits of honey.
And that’s just “fine” with her.
“I really enjoy this,” she said enthusiastically.
A 2010 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management, Fine is spending 11 days in California, one of some 23 states on her itinerary during her yearlong role as the American Honey Bee Queen.
She speaks at state and county fairs, festivals, schools, beekeeping association meetings and to the news media, spreading the word about the importance of bees. She monitors the American Beekeeping Federation’s Facebook page, and the kids’ blog, buzzingacrossamerica.com.
Fine also works closely with youth development groups, including Girl Scouts, 4-H, Boy Scouts. She hopes to “help bring back the beekeeping badge” for Girl Scouts.
Today she toured the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, and the adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden that's anchored with a six-foot-long ceramic bee sculpture.
The sculpture, created by Donna Billick of Davis and cleverly titled "Miss Bee Haven," portrays a morphologically correct worker bee.
Alyssa Fine recognized the worker bee right away.
No stranger to bees, she's been around bees all her life. Her family owns the Fine Family Apiary in Monongahela, located 20 miles south of Pittsburgh. They keep about 150 hives and sell honey at farmers’ markets, at country stores, and via word of mouth. They also offer pollination services on area farms.
Alyssa's earliest childhood memories include running through a field of clover and getting stung by a bee; enjoying fresh comb honey on the front porch; and crafting scores of school projects on honey bees.
So, going from bee onlooker to bee fancier to beekeeper to Pennsylvania Honey Bee Queen to American Honey Bee Queen seemed quite natural. For, "bee-neath" the sash and the crown is a beekeeper who loves to talk about bees and their role in agriculture.
One thing's for sure: come next January, when her year as American Honey Bee Queen ends, she'll replace the crown with a bee veil.
Meanwhile, Alyssa is enjoying her California stay at the BD Ranch and Apiary in Wilton, owned by veteran beekeeper Brian Fishback and his wife, Darla, where they maintain 100 hives. Brian, a volunteer at the Laidlaw facility, is active in area, state and national beekeeping organizations.
Plans for the rest of the week? It's off to the California State Fair in Sacramento.
In fact, State Fair visitors can see their American Honey Bee Queen tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday at the Insect Pavilion where she will be greeting the public, handing out honey-based recipes, and answering questions in front of Fishback’s bee observation hive.
At 2 p.m. on Friday, she'll offer a special treat to State Fair visitors. She will present a cooking demonstration at 2 p.m. at The Farm. She'll prepare glazed skillet chicken, cole slaw and lemonade--all with honey, of course.
As for the Fishbacks, they've hosted an American Bee Queen for the past three years because they believe strongly in the American Beekeeping Federation's mission and message.
“Having an American Honey Bee Queen," he said, "is really good for public education, for people to learn about the importance of bees."
Beekeeper Brian Fishback shows Alyssa Fine the bee sculpture in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
American Honey Bee Queen Alyssa Fine watches a honey bee forage in the zinnias at the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
I've been asked how I did it.
How did I manage to capture that rare image of a honey bee sting that won the feature photo award presented June 11 by the international Association for Communication Excellence (ACE)?
The bee is tugging a long strand of abdominal tissue as it tries to pull away. Most stings are a clean break. In fact, every bee sting I've ever had--about 15 or so--was a clean break.
Well, it all started at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
It was the lunch hour. Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, with UC Davis Department of Entomology, and I were checking out a hive when he casually said: "Kathy, get your camera ready. This bee is about to sting me."
I removed the lens cap and aimed my camera at the bee. The bee was NOT about to sting him--the bee WAS stinging him.
I shot four photos within a second. My camera can shoot as fast as eight frames a second. Settings: 640 ISO, 1/250 of a second, aperture of 13. Camera: Nikon D700, equipped with a motor drive and a 105mm macro lens.
For educational purposes, I posted the second photo of the sequence on the web. That's why I shoot: educational purposes. Soon people from all over the world were downloading it and using the photo (unauthorized) to sell medical products and the like. One person in Iraq even put his copyright on it.
Well, I thought, it must be an okay photo if folks are lifting it!
I entered "The Sting" in the 2012 feature-photo competition sponsored by ACE, a professional organization comprised of communicators, educators and information technologists in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences.
To my surprise, it won the gold award in the feature category and then the Outstanding Professional Skill Award in Photography.
Mussen wrote about the awards in his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries. (And mentioned the other gold award, for best news writing.)
So, here I am today fielding questions about the photo after it appeared yesterday in the news media. "Amazing!" was the general consensus. However, two persons expressed outrage. One accused me of animal cruelty. Not so. The bee sting was unexpected; it was neither planned nor posed. In fact, I work on several fronts to help save the declining bee population, even going so far as rescuing bees from the pool and offering them a sip of honey.
One person thought I should have put the (insert colorful adjective here) camera down and helped "the poor guy getting stung."
Actually, the "poor guy" was the one who asked me to take the photo!
What most people don't realize is that getting stung by a bee is no big deal to beekeepers. It happens thousands of times throughout the country every single day. Sting? Yawn. So what else is new? Got any plans for the weekend?
What's good about this whole thing is that bee scientists can use the sting photo as an educational tool. Just got a call from one of them...
FIRST PHOTO--When honey bees sting, it's usually a clean break. Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen getting stung. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
SECOND PHOTO--Honey bee pulling out abdominal tissue. This photo won the ACE feature photo award. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
THIRD PHOTO--Honey bee trying to escape after stinging. Worker bees die after stinging, which usually occurs while they're trying to defend their hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
FOURTH PHOTO--A strand of abdominal tissue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Staff research associate/beekeeper Elizabeth Frost of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, earlier this year planted a pollinator patch in front of the facility--and what an eyecatcher it is.
She selected California golden poppies, lupine and foxgloves, among other choices. When spring emerged, the Laidlaw facility never looked so brilliant! Especially in front of the Laidlaw ceramic sign created by Donna Billick of Davis.
Frost posted a "Pollinator Habitat" sign in front that reads: "This area has been planted with a range of flowering native plants to provide high quality habitat for native bees and other pollinators. To learn how you can create good habitat for pollinators, please visit www.xerces.org.
Frost, a UC Davis graduate who joined the bee lab in 2008 and worked with bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, recently accepted a position on the Honey Bee Tech-Transfer Team, part of the Bee Informed Partnership. So, starting Sept. 1 Frost will be based at the Cooperative Extension office in Butte County.
What is the Bee Informed Partnership? To quote from the website, "It's an extension project that endeavors to decrease the number of managed honey bee colonies that die over the winter."
"Since the winter of 2006 - 2007, overwintering colonies in the US have died in large numbers. Affected beekeepers span the entire spectrum of the industry: migratory beekeepers to stationary beekeepers; and commercial beekeepers, part-time beekeepers, to backyard beekeepers. Migratory and stationary beekeepers alike have, on average, lost 30% or more of their overwintering colonies over the last several years. These losses are unsustainable. If they continue, they threaten not only the livelihoods of beekeepers who manage bees, but the livelihood of farmers who require bees to pollinate their crops."
Check out the Bee Informed team! And read their comments on why they like working with bees!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...er, the Laidlaw facility...the pollinators are populating the poppies. On any given day, you can see honey bees, drone flies, hover flies, dragonflies and butterflies.
Plant it and they will come.
Beekeeper Elizabeth Frost in front of the pollinator patch she planted. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Flame skimmer dragonfly rests on an unopened poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Drone fly crawls up a petal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on a California golden poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ever seen honey bees engaging in washboarding?
It's a behavior so named because they look as if they're scrubbing clothes on a washboard or scrubbing their home.
It occurs near the entrance of the hive and only with worker bees. They go back and forth, back and forth, a kind of rocking movement. No one knows why they do it. It's one of those unexplained behaviors they've probably been doing for millions of years.
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of the University of California, Davis and Washington State University, has witnessed washboarding scores of times. Last week the unusual behavior occurred on two of her hives at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. She hypothesizes that these bees are in the "unemployment line." It's a time when foraging isn't so good, so these bees are "sweeping the porch" for something to do, she speculates.
Emeritus professor Norman Gary of UC Davis Department of Entomology writes about it in his chapter, Activities and Behavior of Honey Bees, in the Dadant publication The Hive and the Honey Bee.
"They stand on the second and third pairs of legs and face the entrance. Their heads are bent down and the front legs are also bent," wrote Gary, who has kept bees for more than six decades. "They make 'rocking' or 'washboard' movements, thrusting their bodies forward and backward. At the same time they scrape the surface of the hive with their mandibles with a rapid shearing movement, sliding over the surface as if cleaning it."
They pick up some material and then clean their mandibles.
Gary thinks that "these rocking movements probably serve as a cleaning process by which the bees scrape and polish the surface of the hive."
Like most people, professor/biologist/bee researcher James Nieh of UC San Diego has never seen this behavior. Nieh, who recently presented at seminar at UC Davis, later commented "It is an interesting behavior that would be particularly fascinating to observe in natural colonies in trees. It does seem to involve some cleaning behavior, although it is possible that bees are depositing some olfactory compound while they are rubbing the surface with their mandibles. We are currently conducting research in my lab on the effects of bee mandibular gland secretions on foraging orientation behavior. A new set of experiments will involve examining the effect of mandibular gland secretions on bee behaviors at the nest. I will definitely consider looking at how this potential pheromone affects washboarding."
We managed to capture the behavior with our Iphone and posted it on YouTube.
It's interesting that of the some 25 research hives at the Laidlaw facility, occupants of two of Cobey's hives exhibited washboarding last week.
So, what are washboarding bees doing? Cleaning their home where pathogenic organisms might congregate, per a theory by Katie Bohrer and Jeffrey Pettis of the USDA-ARS Bee Research Lab?
Or are they just creating "busy work"--"sweeping the porch" for something to do?
It would be interesting to find out!
Honey bees engaging in washboarding behavior with "rocking" or up-and-down movements. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Foragers flying back to the hive as their sisters engage in washboarding activity on the wall, or what Susan Cobey calls "sweeping the front porch." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)