Posts Tagged: Honey bee
Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) lamented in his poem “To a Mouse” (1786) that “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
He had just plowed into a mouse nest on his farm. The loss of life disturbed him.
Today folks have only to hear "best laid plans" and know about the "awry" or "astray" part..
Friday we were out looking for bumble bees (Plan A).
A brilliant pink shrub,
But the honey bees were all over it.
From Plan A to Plan Bee.
Close-up of Honey Bee
UC Davis Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty for 32 years, says this looks like a challenging year for almond growers.
There's this water problem. Think "drought."
There's this honey bee crisis. Think "bee health" and "declining bee population."
Then there's these increased production costs. Think "tanked economy."
Christine Souza, assistant editor of Ag Alert, published by the California Farm Bureau Federation, wrote an excellent article in the Jan. 28th edition about the problems almond growers and beekeepers alike are facing.
Headlined "Challenges Face Almond Growers and Beekeepers," the article began:
A reduction in almond prices, limited water availability, increased production costs and the declining health of bees may all influence what happens during this year's almond bloom, impacting both almond growers and beekeepers.
Speaking at the Almond Board of California annual meeting last month, board member Dan Cummings warned his audience that this spring could be "dicey" for almond growers and beekeepers alike.
"Bees are competing for almond growers' money the same as water, fertilizer, fuel and all of our other inputs, at a time when the price of almonds has dropped. So we will be rationalizing where we go with our bees," said Cummings, who farms almonds in Chico and is co-owner of a full-service beekeeping operation. "We will be fallowing some other crops to direct water to almonds and perhaps abandoning almond orchards."
As a result, he said he believes many growers may reduce the amount of honeybee colonies that they place into the orchards for pollination during bloom, to save money.
And all this is happening right now. We saw the first almond blossoms this week in Yolo and Solano counties, a sure sign that spring can't be far behind.
Mussen told Souza that beekeepers are most concerned about the health of their bees, "whether they operate one colony in the backyard or thousands of colonies throughout the country."
"Money is important," Mussen told her, "because it costs nearly $150 to keep a commercial colony alive and productive over a year. Without that income the bees would be lost and the beekeeper would be out of business."
Get ready for the bumpy ride. Take a deep breath. And, as the bumpersticker says: Get in, sit down, and hold on tight.
This may be like Disneyland's Big Thunder rollercoaster that twists through mine shafts, bat caves and caverns.
And watch for the falling rocks.
Honey bee and almond blossom
Right out of Champaign, Ill., comes a research story about honey bees on coke.
University of Illinois entomology and neuroscience professor Gene Robinson and his colleagues have found that honey bees on cocaine dance more.
"In a study that challenges current ideas about the insect brain, researchers have found that honey bees on cocaine tend to exaggerate," wrote Diana Yates, life sciences writer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in a Dec. 23 press release.
"Normally, foraging honey bees alert their comrades to potential food sources only when they've found high quality nectar or pollen, and only when the hive is in need," she wrote. "They do this by performing a dance, called a 'round' or 'waggle' dance, on a specialized 'dance floor' in the hive. The dance gives specific instructions that help the other bees find the food.
"Foraging honey bees on cocaine are more likely to dance, regardless of the quality of the food they've found or the status of the hive, the authors of the study report."
Scientists, led by Robinson, dabbed a low dose of cocaine on the bees' backs before they went out foraging. The Journal of Experimental Biology published the findings this month. Robinson, who calls the bee dance "one of the seven wonders of the animal behavior world," said the research also supports the idea that in certain circumstances, honey bees, like humans, are motivated by feelings of reward.
"Cocaine – a chemical used by the coca plant to defend itself from leaf-eating insects – interferes with octopamine transit in insect brains and has undeniable effects on reward systems in mammals, including humans. It does this by influencing the chemically related dopamine system," Yates wrote.
"Dopamine," she explained, "plays a role in the human ability to predict and respond to pleasure or reward. It is also important to motor function and modulates many other functions, including cognition, sleep, mood, attention and learning."
Well, when you consider the powerful effect of cocaine on humans, the bee research isn't all that surprising.
But this is NOT the reason for colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which bees mysteriously abandon the hive, leaving behind the immature bees and stored food.
Just wait--the same folks who attribute CCD to cell phone disturbance may now connect CCD with cocaine--and maintain that CCD actually stands for Co-Caine Disturbance.
Can't you just see it?
- Crack users will have another excuse when they're stopped by law enforcement. "This is for my bees, officer!"
- The number of beekeepers will increase ten-fold.
- Apiculture majors will rise high in the nation's entomology departments.
- Late-night shows will crack jokes about the the new bee buzz.
- "Making a beeline" will be linked with a line of coke.
And, Crystal Boyd's happiness comment will take on new meaning:
"Work like you don't need money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one's watching."
To see a waggle dance, sans cocaine, access this video on You Tube.
I always thought the red-hot poker was primarily red.
This one in the Storer Gardens at the University of California, Davis, was mostly yellow.
It was Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008, five days before Christmas, and a lone honey bee, packed with pollen, was heading for the red-hot poker, variety "Christmas Cheer" (Kniphofia).
Seemed quite appropriate.
Red-Hot Poker in Storer Gardens
"To bee or not to bee."
That is the question. What is the solution?
The plight of the honey bees has not escaped the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Students' Association (EGSA).
This year's winning t-shirt, the result of a departmental faculty-student-staff-vote, stars the "unsung heroes": the honey bees.
Randall "Randy" Veirs, executive assistant for department chair Lynn Kimsey, and communications specialist Kathy Keatley Garvey (yours truly), came up with the winning shirt--Randy created the intricate drawing, and KKG coined the text, spoofing a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
To bee or not to bee, that is the question.
What is the solution?
Randy, who describes himself as more of a musician than an artist, drew a framed portrait of a Shakespearean bee in period clothing, complete with an Elizabethan collar.
Randy, who plays principal trumpet in the UC Davis Symphony, said he spent several days drawing the bee, gathering information online about proper Shakespearean attire. His brother, Russell Veirs, also a musician (saxophone), helped prepare the image in Photoshop.
By the way, each brother has a bachelor's degree in music from UC Davis, while Russell has a master's in saxophone performance from Sacramento State University. Music and art do go together!
The t-shirt ties in with Shakespeare's view that "All the world's a stage." (Just add message.) It also ties in with Shakespeare's fascination for bees. One of the playwright's lines from Henry V: "For so work the honey bees, creatures that by a rule in nature teach the act of order to a peopled kingdom."
Yes, bees are well-organized and we can learn much from these hard-working social insects.
The bee t-shirt is not only raising funds for the graduate student association but raising awareness for the honey bees. Beekeepers throughout the country report they are losing from one-third to 100 percent of their bees due to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious phenomenon in which bees abandon their hives.
The t-shirts are $15 and available in child-through-adult sizes, says t-shirt coordinator Yao Hua Law, a doctoral student who studies with professor Jay Rosenheim. "The funds will be used for EGSA activities, including the monetary prizes for the EGSA-organized Undergraduate Entomology Research Poster Competition," he said. Contact Yao Hua at (530) 752-4481 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Plans are also under way to sell the T-shirts through the University Bookstore, thus making online payments possible and shipping fluid, he said.
Other UC Davis entomology t-shirts are also available. One of the favorites is "The Beetles." A parody of The Beatles' "Abbey Road" album cover, the t-shirt features four beetles crossing Abbey Road. Doctoral candidate Hillary Thomas, who studies with major professor Frank Zalom, an integrated pest management specialist, designed the shirt.
The Bees. The Beetles.
The take-home message on these shirts is also a take-everywhere message.
To Bee or Not to Bee
Close-up of Drawing