Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
Faster than a speeding bullet...
As soon as UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey opened a beehive and removed a chunk of honeycomb to show visitors, here came the speeding bullet. A fast camera shutter caught what the eye couldn't see.
It was a queen yellowjacket taking dead aim at the comb.
"The yellowjacket queen this time of year zeroes in on the honey as soon as you open a hive," said Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
"They build up their populations in the fall and eat the bees for protein to overwinter. They can actually kill bee colonies, especially weak ones. As meat-eating predators, these are common at picnic time, for which honey bees are often unfairly blamed."
Yes, honey bees are indeed unfairly blamed. Like human vegetarians, honey bees don't eat meat. They may land on your soda can for the sugar water, but meat doesn't interest them. They forage for nectar and pollen.
Now yellowjackets--they're predators. They love meats and sweets. You'll see these uninvited guests at your picnic or barbecue, boldly sampling your steak, hamburger or chicken; targeting your can of soda; or scavenging in and around your garbage can.
They also vigorously defend their nests, which look like paper combs. Do not go near their nests.
Their sting is painful. A yellowjacket recently nailed UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen beneath the collar as he was checking the honey bees at the Laidlaw facility.
Mussen noted that beekeepers inadvertently kill a few bees each time they open a hive and pry open the "stuck-together" frames with their hive tool. The dead bees fall to the ground--to the waiting yellowjackets. The yellowjackets then carry the bees off to their nest, chew them into pulp, and feed the "protein" to their brood.
More yellowjackets on the way.
And soon, more speeding bullets.
WAS is not just the first and third person singular past indicative of be.
It's the Western Apicultural Society, an organization dedicated to the science and art of rearing honey bees.
You'll find scores of commericial beekeepers at the 31st annual WAS Conference, scheduled Aug. 17-20 in Healdsburg, Sonoma County. You'll also find native pollinator specialists, university researchers, vendors, and folks just concerned about the declining bee population and what they can do about it.
UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who's been with the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976, co-founded WAS in 1978 with professor Norman Gary (now retired) whose research focused on the biology and behavior of honey bees, and interaction of honey bees with environment.
Last year WAS members trekked to Victoria, B.C., for their annual meeting. This year, it's right in the heart and soul of California Wine Country.
Where else but at a bee conference in Wine Country can you enjoy honey and wine tasting at the same time?
Conference topics include pathogens found associated with bees; breeding, diagnostics and insecticide tolerance; introduction to native bees, native bees in crop production in Eastern states; native bees in crop production in Western states; effects of honey on human physiology, colony natural history, honey and exercise physiology, and beekeeping tips.
Membership in WAS is open to all, Mussen says (dues range from $7.50 to $10 a year). Although worldwide membership is indeed encouraged, the organization was founded to serve the educational needs of beekeepers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon; and the states of northern Mexico.
Healdsburg is definitely the place to bee Aug. 17-20.
Pretty in PInk
A field of dreams, for a honey bee, almost certainly would be a field of lavender.
Call it what you want, but if a bee could talk, it would probably be "lovely lavender."
When UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, guided a group of scientists from Ho Chi Minh City to commercial bee operations in the Central Valley, one of the stops was to Ann Beekman's lavender fields in Hughson, Stanislaus County.
Ann Beekman of Beekman and Beekman (beekeepers) grows lavender and keeps bees to produce honey, mead soaps and candles. She's featured in the UC Davis Small Farm Center’s book, Outstanding in Their Fields: California’s Women Farmers, which celebrates the achievements of 17 women farmers and ranchers.
Visiting the lavender fields is on my "honey-do" list, but presently, I'll have to be content capturing images of honey bees nectaring the lavender in our bee friendly garden.
And I'm eagerly awaiting the opening of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. A group of Sausalito residents submitted the winning design, which will be implemented this year. A public dedication is tentatively scheduled in October.
The honey bees will surely be as happy as we bee lovers. We all love lavender.
Honey Bee on Lavender
They're now back in Vietnam, but for three days they went on a honey of a tour.
UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976 and a worldwide authority on honey bees, guided a six-member contingent of scientists from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on a three-day tour.
That included a day at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the UC Davis campus; and two daylong Central Valley tours that encompased two beekeeping operations, a pollination operation, and a lavender farm/beekeeping agrictourism location.
The Vietnamese group included Dr. Nguyen Hay, vice rector of Nong Lam University; Dr. Bui Van Mien, head of scientific research management office and head of the Department of Development Food Product, Nong Lam University; Dr. Le Minh Hoang, bee specialist, Institute of Research on Environment and Biotechnology; Dr. Nguyen Tai, general manager, Tan Phat Co.; Hoang Nhu Tung, director of Huy Hoan Co., Ltd.; and Luong Hong Quang, faculty of Food Science and Technology, Nong Lam University, who also served as the interpreter.
California ranks with North Dakota, South Dakota and Florida as the four leading honey-producing states, Mussen told the scientists. “The rankings are weather dependent, based on rainfall. Here in California, we annually average 20 million pounds of honey and 400,000 pounds of beeswax. The value of honey production in California varies from $16 to $30 million a year.”
The distance separating Ho Chi Minh City and Davis is some 8550 miles, but the camaraderie that developed among the U.S. and Vietnamese scientists drew them closer.
Honey bees, those golden social insects, brought them together.
Learn more about the visit and what Mussen told them.
Opening a hive
All About the Bees
What's happening to our bees?
The International Bee Research Association (IBRA), a non-profit organization formed in 1949 that promotes the "value of bees by providing information on bee science and beekeeping worldwide," has just posted several free downloadable pamphlets on bees, including honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees. There's also a pamphlet on colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious malady characterized by bees abandoning their hives.
The pamphlets are writen for UK audiences, but you'll glean much valuable information, too. The one on honey bees is especially good, offering solid, basic information. It focuses on the queen bee, workers (females) and drones (males). For example, a typical colony, in peak season, will number more than 50,000 bees. They include the lone queen, 300 drones, 25,000 older workers (foragers) and the 25,000 young workers who tend to the 9,000 larvae requiring food, and the 6000 eggs that will develop into larvae. The typical hive also includes 20,000 older larvae and pupae in sealed cells "that need no attention except to be left warm, at around 35 degrees C."
The pamphlet on CCD thoroughly explains the problem, describing serious bee losses as a "major threat to crops and ultimately to the nation's food supply."
(By the way, if you're a beekeeper or someone keenly interested in bees, you'll notice that an unlabeled photo gracing the cover of the CCD pamphlet is not a honey bee, genus Apis, but a female solitary bee in the genus Andrena. It is, however, a nicely captured image of a pollinator.)
So, what IS happening with CCD in California?
"This year CCD appears to be less detrimental to honey bee colonies in California, and the rest of the western U.S. states, than it has been over the past few years," UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, UC Davis Department of Entomology, told us today. "Part of this may be due to the fact that the beekeepers are paying more attention to the needs of their colonies throughout the season, instead of just around the end of the year. The improvement may also be due to the fact that the most susceptible colonies have perished. The beekeepers divide their remaining colonies into new colonies in the spring. The beekeepers are increasing their numbers of colonies using stocks that have survived in the past."
Bee on Pomegranate