Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
He sounded the alarm.
“We need 1.6 million colonies, or two colonies per acre, and California has only about 500,000 colonies that can be used for that purpose,” said Mussen in a news release we posted Feb. 8 on the Department of Entomology website. “We need to bring in a million more colonies but due to the winter losses, we may not have enough bees.”
Those winter losses--still being tabulated--and the resulting fewer bees per hive could spell trouble for almond growers, he said.
He said 2012 was a bad year for bee nutrition.
“Last year was not a good year for honey production in the United States,” Mussen said, “and it could be one of the worst honey production years in the history of nation, although it’s been pretty rough in some of the previous years. Usually when we’re short of nectar, we’re short on pollen, and honey bees need both. So, 2012 was a bad year for bee nutrition.”
The winter of 2012-2013, in general, was bad for bees. In fact, it's never been good since the winter of 2006 with the onset of colony collapse disorder, a mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, brood and food stores.
Bee scientists think CCD is caused by a multitude of factors, includes, pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress. On the average, beekeepers report they're losing one-third of their bees a year.
“We don’t know how many more bees will be lost over the winter,” Mussen told us on Feb. 8. “We consider the winter ending when the weather warms up and the pollen is being brought into the hives.”
“Many, many colonies are not going to make it through the winter. We won’t have as large a bee population as in the past.”
Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976, knows honey bees. He is a honey bee guru, a global expert on bees. "Have a question about bees? Ask Eric Mussen." This month, especially, he is in great demand as a news source.
The New York Times quoted Mussen in its March 28th article, "Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms."
Eric Mussen, an apiculturist at the University of California, Davis, said analysts had documented about 150 chemical residues in pollen and wax gathered from beehives.
"Where do you start?" Dr. Mussen said. "When you have all these chemicals at a sublethal leel how do they react with each other? What are the consequences?"
Experts say nobody knows.
Meanwhile, Mussen spent much of the day today granting news media interviews. On Tuesday, April 2, it will be for Dan Rather Reports: Buzzkill.
It was not so long ago that honey bees drew little attention, despite the fact that they pollinate about one-third of the food we eat. A three-letter acronym, CCD, changed all that.
Rich Schubert, a beekeeper in the Winters/Vacaville area, said it best during a question-and-answer session at Mussen's UC Davis Distinguished Seminar on Oct. 9, 2007.
If 5600 dead cows were found in a pasture, instead of 5600 dead bees, people would start paying attention, Schubert told the crowd.
So true. And now they are.
Honey bee foraging on almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of honey bee on an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, said today that almond growers may not have enough bees to pollinate this year's crop of 800,000 acres.
“We need 1.6 million colonies, or two colonies per acre, and California has only about 500,000 colonies that can be used for that purpose,” he said. “We need to bring in a million more colonies, but due to the winter losses, we may not have enough bees.”
Those winter losses--still being tabulated--and the resulting fewer bees per hive could spell trouble for almond growers, he said.
The fact is 2012 was a bad year for bee nutrition. Honey production appears to be way down, maybe the worst ever in our nation's history. Nectar and pollen foraging are closely linked, Mussen says, and malnutrition is one of the stressors of colony collapse disorder (CCD), which since 2006 has decimated about a third of our nation's bees.
Bee scientists believe that CCD--characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen, brood and food stores--is caused by multiple factors, including pests, parasites, pesticides, diseases, viruses, stress, and yes, malnutrition.
“Many, many colonies are not going to make it through the winter,” said Mussen, an apiculturist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976 (and who plans to retire in June of 2014). “We won’t have as large a bee population as in the past.”
Already brokers are getting calls from beekeepers saying “I can’t fulfill the contract. I’m going to be short.” Beekeepers charge the almond growers an average of $150 per hive.
The average almond orchard in California is in full bloom around Feb. 14, but some orchards bloom earlier or later, depending on the cultivar and the weather.
It remains to be seen what will happen in the almond orchards this year. Mussen says it may all work out well in the end as “bees pollinate almonds on a community basis. The strong colonies will make up for the weak colonies. The strong colonies will clean the orchard of pollen by early afternoon and then go down the street and grab food from nearby orchards.”
Almonds are California's biggest export. This year the National Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting a record-breaking 2.10 billion meat pounds, valued at approximately $3 billion. California grows 80 percent of the global supply of almonds, and about 70 percent of California’s crop is marketed overseas.
No bees? No almonds.
Honey bee heading toward an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When the honey bee meets the flowering quince, the bee is "the belle of the ball."
The winter ball.
Suddenly the flowering quince (genus Chaenomele) transforms the bleak wintery landscape into a spring ballroom of sorts. The giddy bee is a joy to see.
Around here, the ornamental flowering quince, a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), usually blooms around late January or early February. The tightly woven pink buds unfold amid the tangled, dreary limbs that still denote winter but promise spring.
When you watch the bees, sometimes you can't tell where the pollen load ends and the anthers begin.
Extension apiculturst Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology encourages gardeners to plant flowers that will bloom in late winter or early spring. The bees, he says, are hungry.
Indeed they are.
The flowering quince is a buffet for the bees and a feast for our eyes.
Honey bee foraging in a flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
An upside-down bee in the flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pollen-packing honey bee inside a flowering quince bud. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
These are terrible blood-sucking parasites that attack bees and raise havoc in the hive. They transmit a variety of diseases and can destroy a hive.
In one of his many talks last year, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology pointed out that honey bee mites include the (internal) tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi), first detected in the United States in 1984, and the (external) Varroa, first discovered here in 1987.
"The tracheal mite killed half of the nation's bees in five years as it expanded across the country," he said. "It was mostly ignored in the last few years."
Then when the Varroa mite arrived, "it killed half of the remaining colonies in five years as it expanded across the country. It killed practically all feral colonies in 1995-96."
"Mite feeding lowers pupal blood protein, resulting in underweight bees, and it shortens the lifespan," Mussen said. "Mite feeding suppresses the honey bee immune system. And, mite feeding vectors RNA virus diseases of honey bees."
Varroa mites, bee scientists agree, are definitely a key factor in the mysterious malady known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). They think CCD is caused not by "a single bullet" but by a multitude of factors, including diseases, pesticides, pests, parasites, malnutrition and stress.
Mussen defines CCD as "the failure of colonies to survive to the next season," and "there's an overwhelming quantity and quality of honey bee stresses."
With CCD, the adult bees abandon the hive, leaving behind the queen, brood and food stores.
So sad. Empty-hive stories, such as this one we heard today from a Davis beekeeper are troubling: "I went to check on my bees yesterday and found the hive empty. The wood was a little mildewy, I think they absconded because hive design needs work. I saw a couple dead yellowjackets in the hive, too, but I don't know if they attacked when there were still bees there or not."
Says Mussen: "Honey bees are stressed by many things. It begins with less naturally occurring food plants. The plants lack the mixed pollens essential for honey bee nutrition."
"It continues with loss of blood and lifespan, as well as infectious inoculations, from Varroa mite parasitism; infections by exotic microbes, especially Nosema ceranae and RNA iruses; and exposure to toxic or 'made toxic' (by adjuvants) chemical residues."
"Is it any wonder that our honey bee colonies are having a hard time surviving?" Mussen asks.
You can catch up on what's troubling the bees and the scientific research under way by reading his bimonthly newsletter, from the UC apiaries, posted on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
This frame shows healthy bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Queen bee and her workers. A Varroa mite is on the head of a bee at right of this photo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a Varroa mite on a worker bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Scientists from the Essig Museum of Entomology, UC Berkeley, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Sacramento, will speak at the meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 6 in the CDFA Plant Diagnostic Lab, 3288 Meadowview Road, Sacramento.
The group, comprised of university faculty, researchers, pest abatement professionals, students and other interested persons, will meet from 9:15 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Newly elected president Robert Dowell, a CDFA staff environmental scientist, said the date is a change from the regular schedule; the group usually meets in February on the first Thursday.
The event begins at 9:15 a.m. with registration and coffee.
9:30 a.m.: “Gall Insects in California” – Kathy Schick, a specialist/curator at the Essig Museum of Entomology, UC Berkeley
10:15 a.m.: “Update on Biological Control of Klamath Weed in California” – Mike Pitcairn, CDFA senior environmental research scientist.
11 a.m.: “Federal and California Regulations for Importing Living Plant Pests” – Stephen Brown, Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services CDFA, and Anthony Jackson, USDA APHIS, Plant Protection and Quarantine.
12 noon: Lunch – The menu will be chicken, whole beans, rice, tortillas, chips, salsa and guacamole from Pollo Loco - @15.00.
1:15 p.m. “Fruit Fly Quarantines: Regulations and Quarantine Development” – Casey Estep, CDFA senior environmental scientist.
2 p.m.: “Something New for Invasive Species Reporting” – Susan Sawyer, CDFA staff environmental scientist.
Reservations for the luncheon can be made with treasurer Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist, UC Davis Department of Entomology, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-0472. He requests reservations by Jan. 31.
The society meets three times a year: the first Thursday of February at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Sacramento; the first Thursday of May in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis; and the first Thursday of November in the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District conference room, Concord.
Membership is open to the public; dues are $10 year. Those interested in joining may contact Mussen. They'd love to have new members!
Dowell, the newly elected president, worked as a research scientist at the University of Florida's Agricultural Research and Education Center, Davie, Fla. from 1977 to 1980 before joining the CDFA in December 1980.
Dowell, who grew up in Stockton, obtained his bachelor's degree in biology from UC Irvine; his master’s degree in insect ecology from California State University, Hayward (now CSU East Bay) and his doctorate in entomology from The Ohio State University. He is a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. His professional experience also includes editor of the Pac-Pacific Entomologist.
His current research: attraction of male fruit fly lures for native California insects and evolution of host plant range in swallowtail butterflies: the Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus),the pale tiger swallowtail (P. eurymedon) and the two-tailed swallowtail (P. multicaudata).
Dowell succeeds Robert “Bob” Case of Concord, retired deputy agricultural commissioner from the Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture, as the Nor Cal Entomology Society president. UC Davis mosquito researcher Debbie Dritz is a recent past president of the society.
Newly elected president Robert Dowell (right) talks with UC Davis Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen and UC Davis mosquito researcher Debbie Dritz. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)