Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
To a beekeeper, it's a four-letter word.
Specifically, the varroa mite, also known as Varroa destructor.
It's a small (think flea-sized) crab-shaped parasite that feeds on bees, either in the brood (immature bees) or on adult bees.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, just updated his Bee Brief on this blood sucker. His Bee Briefs, all posted online on the department Web site, can be downloaded for free.
This Bee Brief is titled "Treating Colonies for Varroa Mite Infestations." (You'll also want to read his updated colony collapse disorder (CCD) Bee Brief.)
It's apparent, Mussen says, that resistant mites are now prevalent in the United States, including California.
"Chemical testing has demonstrated that varroa mites commonly are resistant to fluvalinate, coumaphos and amitraz. Losses of wintering colonies were over twice as high as 'normal' during the early 2000s, with one of the worst losses (40 to 60 percent) of California (and total U.S.) commercial colonies over the 2005-05 winter. Infested colonies dwindled away during the fall and winter."
Meanwhile, a hive without a varroa mite is a scarcity indeed.
You can see varroa mites on the larva (below) and on an adult bee.
Just think if you had a blood sucker on you like that.
Mite on Pupa
Take a close look.
What's wrong with the first photo posted below this blog?
If you're a beekeeper or someone who's been around bees, you'll know immediately.
If not, you may look at the photo and say "Hmm, a honey bee. Yep, it's a honey bee, all right. It's on a what...nectarine blossom?"
Yes, it's a honey bee. Yes, it's on a nectarine blossom. But if you look at the huge eyes and the stout body, you'll know it doesn't belong on the blossom. It's a drone (male) and drones don't forage.
They have one responsibility and that's to mate with the queen. A virgin queen, on her maiden flight, leaves the hive and mates in the air with 12 to 25 males waiting for her in the drone congregation area.
After mating, the drones immediately fall to the ground and die. "They die happy," says Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Meanwhile, the queen bee returns to her hive and spends the rest of her life laying eggs. She's a veritable egg-laying machine. During the peak season, she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day. She will not mate again. She has enough stored sperm to last the rest of her life, which is usually one to two years.
UC Davis bee scientists got a kick out of the drone on the nectarine blossom. (If you watched the Jerry Seinfeld movie, "The Bee Movie," you probably heard Seinfeld erroneously referring to his fellow male bees as "pollen jocks." He also said males have stingers--they don't.)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, said the photo would make "A great quiz material for beekeeping and pollination courses."
However, the best comment about the photo came from UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis:
"Silly drone--he has one function and that is not it!"
Eric Mussen is used to fielding questions about honey bees--how and why they gather nectar, honey, propolis and water; how many eggs a queen bee can lay in a day; and why beekeeper use smokers.
Typical of the questions and his answers:Why do beekeepers use smokers?
The smoke from the smoker has three effects on the bees. First, it prevents the guard bees from liberating much “alarm pheromone” (smells like bananas) in the hive. Second, it prevents “soldier” bees in the hive from smelling the pheromone that has been secreted. Third, it causes many bees to fill up on honey. Despite the wives’ tales to the contrary, there is no reason to believe that the bees “think” there is a fire or that bees full of honey cannot sting.
Can honey bees see color?
Yes, honey bees can see nearly all the colors we see. They cannot see red, which looks black to them. They can see into the UV wavelengths a ways, which is beyond our limit at purple. UV looks black to us.
However, when Mussen takes the stage on Monday, March 1 at the California Small Farm Conference in San Diego, he won't be giving a presentation on honey bees or answering questions.
He'll be receiving a well-deserved award: the Pedro Ilic Outstanding Ag Educator Award for his work in educating the agricultural community, the beekeeping industry and the general public about honey bees.
Mussen, an Extension apiculturist and member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976, is considered by his peers as one of the most respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation.
He serves in leadership roles in numerous honey bee organizations, from the California State Beekeepers' Association to the American Honey Producers' Association. He helped found the Western Apicultural Society and served terms as president. The list of service to agriculture and apiculture is both impressive and extensive.
“Yet he is just as open to answering a question about Nosema to a beginning beekeeper or responding to a child’s question about queen bees as he is to helping a commercial beekeeper with 15,000 hives, or engaging in intricate scientific research,” said nominator Larry Godfrey, Extension entomologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Mussen delivers his messages via computer, phone, field and office visits, research, conferences and publications. Since 1976, he has written the bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, and fact sheets called Bee Briefs.
Yet unbeknowst to many of today's agriculturists: Eric Mussen and Pedro Ilic, a small farm-advisor in Fresno County who died in 1994, knew each other. In fact, they worked together as members of the Small Farm Work Group, part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
"They were alike in many ways: their dedication, enthusiasm, high energy, friendliness, their commitment to small-scale and family farming, and the easy-going way they imparted information on a diversity of projects, solving a multitude of problems—and sometimes at a moment’s notice,” Godfrey said.
Ilic was known as an effective teacher who instilled self-esteem in others and constantly encouraged others, his colleagues said. Illic showed characteristic determination, exuberance, high energy, and genuine friendliness for all people, with the conviction that the smallest is as important as the biggest.
That would be describing Eric Mussen to a "T."
Or to a "B."
A tip of the bee veil to Eric Mussen, public servant extraordinaire.
It's not spring, but don't tell that to the folks at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Today bee breeder-geneticist Michael "Kim" Fondrk mowed the lush green grass around the apiary. Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Laidlaw facility, continued preparing for a series of specialized bee courses. She tended the hives with beekeeper and junior specialist Elizabeth Frost and beekeeper Tylan Selby, a first-year entomology student.
The conference room buzzed with ideas for an upcoming tour. Following the meeting, Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty talked "bees 'n almonds" with Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus. Yang will be conducting the first of what will probably be many tours at the Laidlaw facility.
The tours will include the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the quarter-acre Campus Buzzway. Both are bee friendly gardens that will provide a year-around food source for the bees, and educational opportunities for visitors.
Meanwhile, oblivious to the people activity, the bees continued to gather pollen and nectar from nearby almond trees.
"The queen bees are really busy laying eggs," Cobey said. That means more workers, more drones and more queen bees.
During the peak season, a queen bee can lay 2000 eggs a day, Cobey said.
That's definitely springing into action.
Examining Almond Blossoms
Lovely almond blossoms
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.