Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
A sure sign of spring: trucks loaded with bee hives heading out to the almond orchards.
Yes, almond pollination season is almost here.
California has approximately 700,000 acres of almonds, and each acre requires two hives for pollination.
Since California doesn't have that many bee colonies, beekeepers from all over the country, some from as far away as Florida, are trucking in their bees.
A scene today in the Meadowview neighborhood, Sacramento: a truck loaded with hives and towing a forklift. The forklift? Quite necessary for easy movement and placement of the hives in the soggy orchards.
The almond pollination season begins around Feb. 10 and continues until approximately March 10. This encompasses the early, mid- and late varieties of almonds.
When asked today about the status of colony collapse disorder (CCD), Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, told us: "The colonies being delivered to the orchards currently should be in pretty good shape but CCD still is depleting those numbers in many commercial beekeeping operations in California and across the country."Let's keep our fingers crossed.
It’s raining in northern California like the proverbial cats and dogs--and all the more reason to think of vacations.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, received a query last week from a family planning a camping trip to a public park in the Midwest.
A daughter is allergic to bee stings, so the family wanted to know two things:
1. Is there any way to find out what a bee population is in a specific area?
2. How can we avoid bee stings?
His answers are informative:
Is there any way to find out what a bee population is in a specific area?
Usually, the only records that are kept deal with the number of colonies registered by the beekeepers in a state once a year. If the beekeepers are commercial beekeepers, they are likely to move the colonies around for purposes of crop pollination or producing honey crops. Unless you knew all the beekeepers and their patterns of operation, there is no way to know where the colonies are.
If this is a good honey producing area, beekeepers might be moving their bees into it. You could call the park (if it is one) and see if they allow beekeeping on the park grounds.
Even if they don't, if there is good bee forage in the area (nectar and pollen), some honey bees are apt to be living around the area in "feral" colonies--not managed by anyone.
How can we avoid bee stings? Best preventative measures?
Honey bees do not tend to sting anything very far from the nesting location, unless you happen to step on one, etc. They are busy collecting water, nectar, pollens, or propolis (plant resins they use to glue things in the hive.) If something comes near the nesting location, and the bees respond to the approaching threat, then there might be some stinging.
What are the best preventative measures? This pertains to wasps, too, which sting more people in the woods than honey bees ever do. Keep your eyes open for "directed" flight by insects in an out of a specific spot. That is likely to be the nest entrance. Keep away from there.
If bees or wasps come flying out toward you, don't swing at them or try to blow them away from your face. You'll get stung immediately. If you are not yet stung, just stand very still for a moment, then ease yourself out of the area with no flailing or swinging of the arms, etc.
Put a lot of distance between you and the nest without running.
If they are all over you and stinging, then run first and work on the stings later. Honey bee stings stick in your flesh and give off "alarm pheromone," which leads to more stings in the same place. You do not want to continue to be a target.
If stung, look for the sting when you get a chance. If it is honey bees, the sting will be there. Scrape it off with a finger nail, before all the venom is pumped into the skin.
Honey bees are attracted more to yellow and blue than to other colors. Honey bees treat red and black as black. Black is bad if bees are stinging in the area. Pastel and white colors usually are best around bees.
Honey bees are attracted to odors reminiscent of lemon and are shocked by the smell of bananas--just like their alarm odor. (The aroma of bananas is similar to the scent of a bee's alarm pheromone.)
Final thought, even if there are bee hives or nests around, hardly anyone ever gets stung by them. They do their thing and you do yours, and there should not be any conflict under normal circumstances.***
For more information on bee stings, read the bee sting advice that appears in his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, a publication Mussen launched in 1976. He also writes the equally informative Bee Briefs. These publications are archived on the UC Davis Department of Entomology Web site.
Flight of the Honey Bee
Dragonflies, damselflies, dermestids and native bees.
Does an entomological life get any better than this?
Those are some of the topics to be discussed at the next meeting of the Northern California Entomological Society, set for Thursday, Feb. 4 in the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Plant Diagnostic Lab building, 3288 Meadowview Road, Sacramento.
The meeting, to be held from 9:15 to approximately 3 p.m., is open to all interested persons. Membership dues are $10 a year, according to secretary-treasurer Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Patrick Foley, a theoretical population biologist and pollination biologist at California State University, Sacramento, will present a talk on "Native Bees of the American and Consumnes River."The schedule:
9:15 a.m.: Registration and coffee
9:45: “Native Bees of the American and Cosumnes Rivers” – Patrick Foley, Sacramento State University.
10:30: “Spotted Winged Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii: Research, Integrated Pest Management and Control” – Janet Caprile, Contra Costa County UC Cooperative Extension.
11:15: “Section 18 Pesticide Registration” – Margaret Reiff, Pesticide Registration, Department of Pesticide Regulation.
12:00 : Lunch (orders will be taken at the meeting) – $15
1:15 p.m.: “Neo-Tropical Odonata” (Odonata is an order of insects encompassing dragonflies (Anisoptera) and damselflies (Zygoptera). – Rosser Garrison, CDFA
2 p.m.: “Tour of CDFA Insect Collection with Special Emphasis on Controlling Dermestids and Other Destroyers of Museum Specimens” – Stephen D. Gaimari, CDFA
The Northern California Entomology Society meets three times a year: the first Thursday in February; the first Thursday in May, at UC Davis; and the first Thursday in November in the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District conference room, Concord. Agricultural biologist Matthew Slattengren of the Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture serves as president.
The society is comprised of university faculty, researchers, pest abatement professionals, students and other interested persons.
Almond pollination season is approaching, and with it, come concerns.
Mussen, a former New Englander who has seen dozens of almond pollination seasons in California (he's been a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976), says California now has approximately 710,000 acres of almonds. Each acre requires two hives for pollination.
Since California doesn't have that many bees, beekeepers from around the country truck in their colonies. The going rate per hive over the last several years has ranged from $100 to $150.
Generally, California's almond pollination season starts around Feb. 10, Mussen says, and ends around March 10. That takes into account the early, mid- or late varieties that bloom at different times. However, the pollination period for each individual orchard is around 10 days.
The flight hours of a honey bee during almond pollination season? Approximately nine hours a day over a 10-day bloom period.
And what are flight hours? Mussen defines "flight hours" as "the number of hours above 55 degrees when the wind is less than 15 miles per hour, given a sufficient level of sunlight without rainfall."
"I believe that if the tree varieties overlap well in bloom, the bees usually have moved the pollen around in the morning and early afternoon on good flight days," he writes in his newsletter. "That probably requires only about four hours a day."
Of course, poor weather can interfere significantly with "fertilization and nut set," Mussen says, "but it would not be the fault of the bees."
As a service to beekeepers and growers, a retired beekeeper posts information on the Almond Board of California Web site indicating who's renting colonies and who needs pollination.
Meanwhile, check out the images below of UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk in a Dixon, Calif. almond orchard. Fondrk manages the Honey Bee Pollen Hoarding Selection Program at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, under the direction of Robert E. Page Jr., Arizona State University. Fondrk and Page moved the bees from Arizona to California several years ago.
The January newsletter published by the eXtension.org Bee Health Community of Practice includes:
* New Feature: Managed Pollinator CAP Updates
* Social Media Strategy Developed
* YouTube Channel Launched
* New Feature: University of Florida Bee Disease Videos
* FAQ's Organized by Category
* Google Analytics: Bee Health Homepage in Top 10 at eXtension.org
* On the Calender
One of the many bee experts who answers the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) is John Skinner of the University of Tennessee, who has strong UC Davis connections. He received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1987, studying with major professor and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp. Although an emeritus professor since 1994, Thorp continues his research. He maintains an office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
Here's a sampling of the questions that Skinner answered in the last few months:
How Do Bees Make Wax?
Bees produce the beeswax used in the construction of their combs from the four pair of wax glands located on the underside of the abdomen. These glands are most highly developed and active in bees 10-18 days old. The wax appears in small, irregular oval flakes or scales that project between the overlapped portions of the last four abdominal segments. Wax can be secreted only at relatively high temperatures and after a large intake of honey or nectar. --John Skinner, University of TennesseeHow Do Bees in a Swarm Determine Where to Go for a New Home?
A swarm of bees hanging on a branch includes a queen and thousands of worker bees. Some of these bees function as scouts and search the surrounding area for a suitable category to move into. The scouts return to the swarm cluster and dance to communicate information to the bees in the swarm. There may be numerous dances all going on at the same time. The results are similar to a dance contest where the number of dances is reduced until only one dancer left. Within a half hour of reaching an “agreement” the swarm flies to the new location. --John Skinner, University of TennesseeHow Long Do Honey Bees Live?
During the active season, the lifetime of a worker is five to six weeks. Overwintering worker bees may, however, live for four to six months. Whatever their life span, worker bees usually confine themselves to one task at a time, working without pause. If they are field bees, they may be scouts or collectors. Scouts look for sources of nectar and pollen. Once suitable sources are located, the scouts recruit additional foragers.
Nectar collectors, pollen foragers, water gatherers or propolis gatherers work so single-mindedly at their jobs, they will not stop even to collect honey placed before them. During the day, one may see hundreds of spent workers, wings ragged, returning wearily to the hive. Worker bees are aptly named as they literally work themselves to death. Death occurs following approximately 500 miles of flight. --John Skinner, University of TennesseeHow Can Worker Honey Bees Perform So Many Tasks in Their Short Lives?
The lives of the worker bees fall roughly into two periods. During the first period of approximately three weeks, they are called hive or house bees. On emerging from their cells, they groom themselves and engorge on honey and pollen from the storage cells. Their first three days are spent cleaning out brood cells. Thereafter as they mature, glands including labial, salivary, hypopharangeal and wax become functional they feed the older larvae and then the younger larvae, take orientation flights, evaporate nectar, build comb, feed the queen and the drones, keep an even temperature in the brood nest and guard the entrance to the hive. These differences in responsibilities based on worker age are known as a division of labor. But, depending on specific circumstances, it can be very flexible.
The last half of a worker bee’s adult life is devoted to foraging duties outside the hive. Four necessary items collected outside the hive are pollen, nectar, water and propolis (bee glue).--John Skinner, University of TennesseeGot a question? Just ask it on this page.
Another noted bee expert connected with the "Bee Health" Web site is Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty. Read some of his answers to FAQs posted on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility Web site.
It's all about keeping our bees healthy.
Trio on Sedum