Backyard Orchard News
Happy Turkey Day!
The last Thursday of November is Thanksgiving Day, but it really should be Honey Bee Day.
Without the bees, we’d have no Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving as we know it. They are our unstung heroes. They pollinate more than 90 agricultural crops in California. One third of the American diet is pollinated by bees.
So, as we sit around the dining room table giving thanks, we should also consider the insect that makes it all happen.
The honey bee.
Happy Honey Bee Day!
Bee and Nectarine Blossom
One of the highlights of the Entomological Society of America's 56th annual meeting, held Nov. 16-19 in Reno, was the presentation of the Fellow awards.
This year two of the 10 recipients came from the University of California faculty--or more specifically, from UC Davis.
Entomology professor Michael Parrella, associate dean of the Division of Agricultural Sciences, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and professor Frank Zalom, an integrated pest manageament specialist, former director of the UC Integrated Pest Management Program (16 years), and a former vice chair of the Department of Entomology, received the honors.
Fellows are selected for their outstanding contributions in entomological research, teaching, extension or administration, said ESA spokesperson Richard Levine. Up to 10 entomologists from among the 6000-member organization are singled out for the annual award.
President Michael Gray presented the awards.
As Lynn Kimsey, chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, said: "These are highly prestigious awards, granted only to 10 or fewer entomologists every year. Michael Parrella and Frank Zalom are carrying on our department’s tradition of excellence and commitment." Eight other UC Davis entomologists have received the honor since 1947.
The Zalom and Parrella accomplishments are many. The agricultural community and the academic world are quite appreciative of their work.
This was a highlight not only of the ESA meeting, but of their outstanding careers.
A toast to professors Parrella and Zalom!
ESA President Michael Gray and Michael Parrella
ESA President Michael Gray and Fellow Frank Zalom
Those dratted mites.
UC Davis entomologist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor and a native bee pollinator specialist, sent us a BBC report linking a varroa mite infestation to a devastating honey production loss in the UK. It's the worst honey crisis ever to hit the UK.
In short: beekeepers are concerned that by Christmas, there may be no more domestically produced honey left on the supermarket shelves.
The mite infestation has already killed off an estimated quarter of the UK's honey bees, according to BBC correspondent Jeremy Cooke, who said about "one in three colonies has been wiped out."
The varroa mite, or the Varroa destructor, is a nasty pest. Now found in most countries (Australia is an exception), it's an external parasite initially discovered on the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana. Over the last few decades, however, it has spread to the Western honey bee (also known as the European honey bee), Apis mellifera.
The varroa mite entered the UK in 1992, reports show. It has since spread throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The blood-sucking parasite feeds on both adults and the brood (immature larvae). It weakens the bees, opening them up to all sorts of diseases. And eventually, if not controlled, it will destroy the colonies.
The bad news is that the varroa mite cannot be completely eradicated, but with proper control methods, the mite population can be kept at a low level.
When California State Secretary of Agriculture A. G. Kawamura visited the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis last month, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey showed him dead mites on a hive floor. (See story on UC Davis Department of Entomology site.)
Kawamura is no stranger to bees or bee pests. As a youth, he reared bees--until the infectious bee disease, American foulbrood, upset his plans.
To control the mite, beekeepers usually use a combination of management methods. They use biotechnical methods and chemical controls. Unfortunately, in some areas, the varroa mite is developing resistance to miticides--another worry for beekeepers.
Said Cobey: "You need to reduce mite levels in colonies by late summer--August/September--to have healthy bees in spring."
Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis says that in California, the Department of Pesticide Regulation "is close to approving another chemical treatment" to help control the mite problem.
It may be ready by next spring.
The mites will be waiting.
Mite on Drone
Mites on Hive Floor
Okay, what are the answers?In a prior blog, we listed several questions asked at the Linnaean Games, a college-bowl type of quiz that’s a traditional part of the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting. You have to know insect facts and figures and ESA history to win.
It's a fun game that draws entomologists and would-be entomologists from throughout the world. Professor Tom Turpin of Purdue, decked out in a tuxedo and a monarch butterfly bowtie, moderates the event and provides more humor than some of the late-night TV shows. This year's ESA meeting, the 56th annual, took place Nov. 16-19 in Reno.Ready for the questions and answers?
Question: U.S. states have an official state insect. List three states that do not have one.
Answer: Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming. Source: See http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/Lists/state_insects.html
Question: What is the purpose of the process in folklore known as “Telling the Bees?”
Answer: To keep honey bees from leaving the hive when a bee keeper had died.
Question: Approximately how many beetle species have been described to date? Choices:
Answer: 350,000 (c)
Answer: Gil GrissomQuestion: Imagine that you have wandered through an area where an egg mass of deer ticks has just hatched, and you find yourself in intimate association the dozens of tick larvae. What is your risk of getting Lyme disease?
Answer: None. This would be their first blood meal, and Lyme disease is not transovarially transmitted.The University of California, Riverside team won the competition, edging North Carolina State University. The UC Riverside team included Jennifer Henke, Jason Mottern, Casey Butler and Rebeccah Waterworth.
UC Davis, our home team (Go Aggies!), also competed. Hillary Thomas, Andrew Pederson, Dominic Reisig and Michael Branstetter gave it the ol' Aggie try but didn’t quite make the finals. Next year! Their coach, Larry Godfrey, was on a University of Kentucky championship team.What year was that? "Are you trying to make me feel really old?" Godfrey quipped. "Well, it was 1983 at the second annual Linnaean Games (second annual in the North Central Branch of ESA where it started). It was a few years before the other branches started this competition and several years before they did it at the national meeting. Tom Turpin, who started this with another professor at Purdue (Rich Edwards) was my major professor for my M.S."
(Godfrey received his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Purdue and his doctorate at the University of Kentucky.)Ready for more questions?
Question: Name three insects of the five that are athletic team mascots at universities in the United States.
Answer: Bees, Black Flies, Hornets, Wasps, Yellowjackets
Question: What well known American poet wrote a poem entitled “The Bird to the Bees” that began with the lines “There is obviously a complete lack of understanding between the bee/ And me?"
Answer: Ogden Nash
In future columns, we'll take a look at some of the other questions and answers.
Meanwhile, check out the Smithsonian Magazine article on the University of Maryland team at the Linnaean Games. The article mentions that the students crammed for the Linnaean Games by poring over "The Insects," written by UC Davis entomology professors Penny Gullan and Peter Cranston.
Pondering a Question
UC Davis Team
In football lingo, a curl is a spin on a football, which makes it swerve when it's kicked.
Honey bees can also "curl."
I took this photo today of a lone bee curled on purple sage. The worker bee was gathering nectar in the summerlike weather.
"That's the same position a bee has to get in to sting you," observed UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen. "She can't lie flat to sting. She curls up and stings."
Like a comma.
A death "sentence" for her; a little pain for the victim.