Backyard Orchard News
If you like oranges, you can thank a honey bee.
Oranges are 90 percent dependent on honey bees for pollination.
Remember that week of freezing temperatures back in December? Yes, it affected California's $2 billion citrus industry. California Citrus Mutual estimated the freeze wiped out a quarter of the industry. And yes, expect to see the price of oranges and orange juice rise slightly.
Meanwhile, as spring descends in the Central Valley, the orange tree buds are slowly opening, much as they have since the Gold Rush Days when settlers began commercial production of oranges in California, then primarily in the Los Angeles area.
The sight of honey bees pollinating orange blossoms on a warm spring day is a sight to bee-hold.
Orange blossom special...
A honey bee pollinating an orange blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
One bee forages while another takes flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of honey bee on an orange blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Indeed, to the untrained eye, the drone fly (Eristalis tenax) appears to be a bee. It's not; it's a fly.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, calls the drone fly "The H Bee." That's because there's an "H" on its abdomen (see photo). Like all flies, however, it can be distinguished by one pair of wings and stubby antennae. The larva of the fly is a rat-tailed maggot that lives in drainage ditches, pooled manure piles and other polluted water. The adults are floral visitors. Pollinators.
The "H Bee" was among the pollinators that Thorp discussed at the UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop, hosted March 6 by the California Center for Urban Horticulture.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, switched from bee mimics (drone flies, syrphid flies and other insects) to talk about the "real" honey bees, Apis mellifera, which European colonists introduced to what is now the United States in 1622. "The honey bees' biggest problem today is malnourishment," he said. "A single honey bee colony requires an acre of bloom to meet its nutritional needs each day," he said.
The queen can lay 2000 eggs a day in peak season. "One cell of honey and one cell of pollen make one bee."
He urged the participants to "try to plant for late summer and fall bloom, when honey bees in California are having a hard time finding nectar and pollen resources."
Mussen cautioned that bees are subjected to toxic pollens and unnatural toxins (pesticides). Plants poisonous to bees include the California buckeye (Aesculus californica) death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum), corn lily (Veratrum californicum) and some locoweeeds (Astragalus spp.)
Pesticides inside the hive (used to control varroa mites) and outside the hives can be fatal. However, he said, "any kind of pesticide a bee encounters--there's always a physiological change."
Following the morning-long speaker presentations, the participants visited the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive to check out and/or purchase Arboretum All-Stars and other plants, and they toured the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road that is under the wing of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The garden is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Among those traveling the longest distance were Lake Tahoe UC Master Gardeners Lynne Broche and Bonnie Turnbull and Turnbull's 14-year-old daughter, Jessie Brown, a junior Master Gardener and an avid insect photographer.
The ceanothus blooming in the haven especially drew the attention of the workshop participants. Insects foraging in the ceanothus included two so-called "H bees"--the honey bee and its impostor, the H-marked drone fly.
The drone fly, Eristalis tenax, is often mistaken for a bee. The fly has the letter "H" on its thorax. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
essie Brown, 14, a junior UC Master Gardener with the Lake Tahoe Master Gardeners, photographs insects in the ceanothus at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's a glorious day, the first day of spring, and what better time to mark the occasion by visiting the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive?
Mother Earth, a mosaic ceramic sculpture by talented Donna Billick of Davis, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, overlooks a thriving garden populated with honey bees, butterflies, sweat bees, syrphid flies, and ladybugs.
Today we saw the mournful dusky-wing butterfly (Erynnis tristis), the first of the year. (How ironic a butterfly with such a sad name would be in the garden the first day of spring!) The more colorful painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) arrived earlier this month. (See the Central California butterfly monitoring site of Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis for more information on butterflies and his research.)
The UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery attracts scores of pollinators with such plants as ceanothus, salvia, California fuchsia, cut-leaf lilac, rosemary, bulbine and Spanish lavender.
Meanwhile, the officials at the teaching nursery are gearing up for their next public plant sales, set for three Saturdays: April 5, April 26 and May 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Garden and irrigation experts will offer guidance for what to plant in your garden, including the Arboretum All-Stars, and offer advice on drought-related resources. A plant doctor clinic is also planned. (Members say 10 percent on plant sales.)
While you're browsing through the plants, don't overlook the pollinators! Indeed, they may just nudge you into buying a specific plant...
A honey bee foraging on ceanothus in the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A painted lady, Vanessa carduii, finds a cut-leaf lilac, Syringa × laciniata, quite attractive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Check out the pollen on this honey bee foraging on ceanothus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A mournful dusky-wing butterfly (Erynnis tristis) on Spanish lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mother Earth, a mosaic ceramic sculpture by Donna Billick of Davis, overlooks the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A torrent of emotions on the face of Mother Earth, the work of artist Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association (SABA) staffed a beekeeping booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and filled it with honey straws, Häagen-Dazs premier ice cream and bee-related pamphlets from Project Apis m. A bee observation hive, brought by Bill Cervenka Apiaries of Half Moon Bay, fronted the booth.
The bees buzzed all right, but the people--the general public lining for the ice cream donated by Häagen-Dazs--seemed to create the biggest buzz. They made a literal beeline for the strawberry and vanilla ice cream. Häagen-Dazs supports the University of California, Davis, through its bee garden and bee research (some 50 percent of its flavors require the pollination of bees).
By 11:35, the honey was all gone. "It vanished, just like our bees," quipped Bill Lewis, CSBA president.
Staffing the booth with him were Carlen Jupe, CSBA treasurer; Marti Ikehara of SABA, and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Among those stopping to chat with the beekeepers were California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). The California Department of Food and Agriculture sponsors the annual event, this year focusing on "Celebration, Innovation and Education."
Their bees pollinate almonds, oranges, avocados and alfalfa.
For Lewis, his interest in bees began at age 14 when he took up beekeeping in the Boy Scout program and earned his beekeeping badge. That was in Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee, where he maintained several bee hives in his backyard. "I 'abandoned' them when I went off to college," he said.
After earning his master's degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University, he settled in California to work in the aerospace industry. Ten years later he began a 10-year period of working at a horse-boarding stable. "Horses don't much like bees," he commented. "It bothers the horses when they have to share the same water bowl."
How did he get back into beekeeping? "The bees found me," Lewis said. He began keeping bees in 1991, first as a hobby, and then as a business. "I'm a first-generation beekeeper."
"Our food supply is so dependent on bees," Lewis said. As visitors flowed by, some asked him what they could do to help the bees. Plant bee friendly flowers, buy local honey, try not to use pesticides in your garden, and generally, provide a friendly place for bees.
His favorite variety of honey is black sage "but we're not getting to get much of it this year due to the lack of rain." His second favorite: orange blossom.
He also has almond honey, which he and Mussen describe as "bitter." And, Lewis said, it gets more bitter with time."/span>
Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC ANR, "talks bees" with Bill Lewis, president of the California State Beekeepers' Association. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Say "Honey!" From left are Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis; Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC ANR; Bill Lewis, president of the California State Beekeepers' Association; and Marti Ikehara of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
California grown! From left are CSBA treasurer Carlen Jupe, Sacramento, CSBA member Bill Cervenka of Bill Cervenka Apiaries, Half Moon Bay; CSBA president Bill Lewis of Lake View Terrace; California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross; Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis; and SABA member Marti Ikehara of Sacramento. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It is important to do everything we can to avoid spreading Asian citrus psyllid around California, both because we don't want help it expand its range and we never know which psyllids are carrying huanglongbing disease (HLB). Psyllids tend to live on leaves and stems of citrus. Lindcove has just purchased field cleaning equipment for the Center. Monday we cleaned 40 bins of lemons to ship from our location inside the ACP quarantine to a packinghouse outside the quarantine. See Youtube video of fruit cleaning equipment to see how it functions. It took four people to run the equipment and field clean the fruit, averaging about 4 minutes per bin. But this allowed us to avoid spraying with pesticides prior to fruit movement. It is pretty amazing how many leaves were mixed in with fruit. The equipment is on a trailer that can be hauled to research locations outside of Lindcove. In this way, we can clean fruit before bringing it to the Lindcove packline and ensure that we are not bringing psyllids to the research center.
Leaf litter from 20 bins of lemons
Clearing stems and leaves from lemons