Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
However, there may be sad ending...more about that later.
Members and their guests will gather Nov. 7 at 9:15 a.m. at their meeting site, the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District conference room, 155 Mason Circle, Concord. for coffee and registration.
Then, at 9:30 a.m., Saul-Gershenz will discuss “Meloid Parasites of Solitary Bees." A graduate student in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and a co-founder of SaveNature.Org, Saul-Gershenz researches a solitary ground-nesting bee, Habropoda pallida and its nest parasite, a blister beetle, Meloe franciscanus, found in the Mojave National Preserve.
She is the lead author of “Blister Beetle Nest Parasites Cooperate to Mimic the Sex Pheromone of the Solitary Bee Habropoda pallida (Hymenoptera: Apidae)," co-authored by professor Jocelyn G. Millar and staff research associate J. Steven McElfresh, both of UC Riverside. The Mojave National Preserve Science News published the peer-reviewed research in its April 2012 edition.
"The solitary bee is the first native bee to emerge in the spring on the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve," said Saul-Gershenz. “The adult beetles emerge on the dunes in the winter months at Kelso Dunes and feed exclusively on the leaves of Astragalus lentiginosus, which leafs out in January."
The bee's emergence is generally synchronized with the onset of blooms of the Borrego milkvetch, which is the sole host plant of adults of the blister beetle at Kelso Dunes.
The UC Davis ecologist said the larvae of the parasitic blister beetle produce a chemical cue or a pheromone similar to that of a female solitary bee to lure males to the larval aggregation. The larvae attach to the male bee and then transfer to the female during mating. The end result: the larvae wind up in the nest of a female bee, where they eat the nest provisions and likely the host egg.
The work of Saul-Gershenz, Millar and McElfresh appears in a newly published academic book, Sensory Ecology, Behaviour, and Evolution (Oxford University Press) by Martin Stevens. Another book, pending publication in December, also will contain their work: the second edition of Pheromones and Animal Behaviour (Cambridge University) by Tristram Wyatt.
Previously, three other books summarized their research:
Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees Are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them by Laurence Packer and published in 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers, Ltd.
Cuticular Hydrocarbons: Biology, Biochemistry and Chemical Ecology by editors A. Bagnères-Urbany and G. Bloomquist and published in 2010 by Cambridge University Press.
The Other Insect Societies by James T. Costa, and published in 2006 by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Now, back to what may be a sad ending.
Following Saul-Gershenz' one-hour talk, the Nor Cal Entomology Society members will discuss the future of the organization, founded in 1930. Then it was known as the Northern California Entomology Club. Membership continues to be open to all interested persons, with dues at $10 a year. Currently the society meets three times a year: in Sacramento, at UC Davis, and in Concord.
Nor Cal Entomology president Robert Dowell of the California Department of Food and Agriculture will moderate the disussion.
“We have reached a critical juncture in the existence of the organization,” secretary-treasurer Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, wrote to the members in an email. “At its beginning, the society served as the meeting place for entomologists mostly from UC Berkeley and UC Davis, as well as other members who appreciated their lively discussions of research and pest control. Representatives from industry and regulatory establishments also participated. A revolving system of society chairs was instituted and membership was good.”
“Over time, the climate has changed. UC Berkeley no longer has an entomology department or hardly any entomologists anymore,” said Mussen, who will retire from UC Davis in June 2014.
Those planning to attend to hear the talk and discuss the future of the organization should contact Mussen at email@example.com or telephone him at (530) 753-0472 by Nov. 1. And oh, yes, there's a luncheon to be served by Kinder's Meats. Mussen is taking reservations (and payment) for that, too.
A digger bee, Habropoda pallida, with blister beetle larvae. (Photo by Leslie Saul-Gershenz)
The question begged for an answer.
"It's yellowjacket time again. Does anyone have or recommend a good trap?"
A Bay Area beekeeper today sought recommendations from ledEric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Mussen, who recently co-authored "Yellowjackets and Other Social Pests" on the UC IPM website with Michael Rust of UC Riverside, responded candidly.
"There are a number of ways that people try to deal with populations of yellowjackets at this time of year," he told her.
- If you can find the nesting area, a whole colony can be dealt with, directly.
- If you can’t find the nest, then most people resort to trapping, since putting out poisonous baits no longer is legal. You can purchase the yellow plastic traps at hardware and nursery stores, etc. You can catch quite a substantial number of wasps, but that often does not alleviate the problem. Similar traps in the spring, to intercept the foundresses, accomplishes a lot more in the long run. These traps contain a pheromone that attracts the wasps. Put the traps a good distance away from where you hope to have a wasp-free location.
- In many outdoor areas, people will tie a piece of raw meat suspended over a tub of detergent water. The wasps come and gorge themselves, then tumble into the water and drown. Again, this does not mean that you will get them all and no longer be vexed. Also, you may have to deal with other scavengers that will eat old meat.
- If the wasps are going after your bees, this is a good time to put “robbing screens” on the entrances to your hives. They pretty much stop honey bee robbing and they are helpful with wasp problems, too, where the wasp populations are not too high. You can see my idea of a good design at my Bee Briefs on our Entomology website. See Robbing Screen.
Western Yellowjackets (Vespula pensylvanica) like to hang around or nest near apiaries because it's "one-stop shopping," as former UC Davis postdoctoral scholar Erin Wilson, now an assistant professor of entomology at UC Riverside, said at a UC Davis seminar in December 2010.
Yellowjackets prey on honey bees. They raid the hives (killing the adults and brood, and stealing honey) and take the food back to their young.
Yes, it's that time again when beekeepers figuratively "see red" when they see yellow (jackets).
A yellowjacket entering its nest at an apiary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A yellowjacket sipping water at an apiary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
With all the talk about honey bee nutrition lately, just how much food does a honey bee colony need and how far can the workers fly to find find it?
"A healthy honey bee colony requires approximately 50 pounds of pollens and 100 pounds of honey to survive for 12 months," says Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who will speak at both the Western Apicultural Society Conference and the California State Beekeepers' Conference this fall.
"Honey production exceeding 100 pounds may be harvested as a honey crop," he says. "From spring until late fall the adult honey bee population turns over at a rate varying from an initial high of around 2000 bees a day to 1000 in the summer, and to 0 in areas with real winter."
During the peak season, a queen bee can lay 2000 eggs a day. That's a lot of mouths for the nurse bees to feed. They need food, and lots of it.
"In order to meet the nectar and pollen demands to feed all that brood (immature bees) each colony has to have an acre-equivalent of honey bee-attractive bloom within foraging flight range," Mussen says. That's up to four miles from the hive and covers a 50-square mile area.
The foraging field force of a honey bee colony, he says, usually consists of one-third of the total population. Some 40,000 to 50,000 bees comprise a colony during the peak season. The foraging population is subdivided into groups of bees specializing in collecting water, nectar or honeydew, pollen, or propolis (plant resin).
That's a lot of work for the foragers.
Here's how the numbers roll.
Statistics show that California has a total land mass of 104,765,440 acres. Of that, fresh water covers 4,949,760 acres. "The remaining 99,815,680 acres are solid ground," Mussen says.
"Our best estimate is that California beekeepers maintain 500,000 colonies of resident honey bees, the number of colonies in California swells to around 1.6 million during almond pollination."
There's plenty of food for the bees during almond pollination season, as California almond acreage totals more than 800,000. Later, though, beekeepers are looking for temporary places to put their bees.
If bees were placed on prime locations, "they would require flight access to between 1 to 1.6 million acres, or approaching a maximum of 1.6 percent of California's landmass," Mussen points out.
"The demand for honey bee forage exceeds the floral quantities in areas readily available to beekeepers. To negate the need for having to feed the colonies supplemental, artificial feed, beekeepers hope to gain access to more areas that appear to contain adequate food. Besides being expensive, artificial feed does not contain all the required nutrient or the necessary microbial complex to meet the needs of honey bees."
That's why there's a concerted drive, Mussen says, for growers to provide "more bee forage along their field edges, interplanted as cover crops, or on fallow ground that they control."
Residents can do their part, too, by providing bee friendly plants.
And that's not just food for thought. It's food for the bees.
Honey bees foraging on pomegranate blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A single honey bee on a sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Published by Wicwas Press of Kalamazoo, Mich., it doubles as a university textbook and a "how-to" resource for beekeepers. It's also a great book for those interested in learning more about honey bees and their biology and behavior.
We first met Caron and Connor at a Western Apicultural Society meeting in 2009 in Healdburg, Calif. Caron holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University, and Connor received his doctorate in entomology from Michigan State University. At the time Caron was a professor/Extension entomologist with the University of Delaware. He is now retired and living in Oregon.
Connor's credentials include Extension entomologist at The Ohio State University, president of Genetic Systems, Inc. in Labelle Fla., a bee breeding firm; and owner/operator of Beekeeping Education Service and Wicwas Press. A prolific author, he's published many books and articles.
Both are on the "bee speakers' circuit," so to speak. They know bees!
Their 20-chapter book delves into such topics as sociality, honey bee anatomy, dance language communication, pheromone communication, foraging and bee botany, the honey harvest, pollination, bee mites, and diseases and pests, to name a few.
Yes, the book touches on bee stings. (As an aside, isn't it a shame that when many people think of "honey bees," they think first of "stings," rather than pollination, bee products and amazing superorganism? For beekeepers, stings just come with the territory.)
"Beekeepers often become complacent about bee stings; they are a normal occurrence of keeping bee colonies," Caron/Connor write. "With an increase in the number of stings, beekeepers become less reactive to the stings. They are a fact of life; something to tolerate as a beekeeper."
Caron/Conner not only recommend that you grab the smoker and puff smoke on the sting site but "Withdraw from the open colony and rub or wash the site with water to remove the chemical odor."
How to relive the pain? Personally, I use a meat tenderizer. Write Caron/Connor: "Apply an over-the counter sting relief remedy or a cool compress, ice, mud, or meat tenderizer to provide some relief."
The bee sting photo (taken by yours truly and published in the Caron/Conner book) shows a Carniolan bee owned by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, stinging Eric Mussen. What you see is the bee's abdominal tissue as it tries to pull away. At the time, we were walking through the apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, and the bee became defensive. "Kathy, get your camera, ready," Mussen said. "The bee's going to sting me."
Usually a bee sting is a clean break.
Speaking of breaks, bee scientists and beekeepers are gearing up for the next Western Apicultural Society meeting, to be held Oct. 16-19 in Santa Fe, N.M.
Mussen, a founder and five-time president of the organization, says the organization was "designed specifically to meet the educational needs of beekeepers from the states of 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."
Membership, however, is open to all interested persons--beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike.
Apiculturist Dewey Caron at a Western Apicultural Society meeting. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's critical issue.
Mussen, an Extension apiculturist based at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology since 1976, says malnutrition is a major factor in the declining bee population. That, along with pesticides, pests, diseases and stress.
"You, no doubt, have lost track of how many times I have stated that malnutrition is a leading factor in our unacceptable annual bee colony loss numbers," Mussen writes in the latest edition of his bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, available free on his website.
"I have also stated innummerable times that our synthesized bee diets just cannot match the value of nutrients obtained by bees from a mixture of quality pollens. My concern has been that although we have a very good idea of the protein requirements for honey bees, the rations of essential amino acids honey bees require, and their required vitamins and minerals, etc., we still cannot feed bees on our best diets and keep them alive more than two months in confinement."
"Thus, we are missing some very critical components in our synthesized diets. If we could find those components, could we formulate a diet that would sustain bees in a healthy condition during 'feedlot beekeeping'?"
Mussen touches on a recent study that shows a component in honey, p-coumarin, stimulates "the honey bee immune system to work better."
However, it's not the honey that's doing this.
"Actually," Mussen says, "that chemical is a contaminant of honey that comes from pollen grains that are mixed into the honey during the bees' processing cycle. Thus, the bees need only to consume the pollen to obtain the desired results. How many other minor chemicals are there in pollens that are so useful to honey bee health?"
You'll want to read what he says about floral pollens containing microbes. "If these microbes are really so important to the nutritional needs of honey bees, what are we doing when we introduce antibiotics and fungicides into the system?"
Bottom line: we need more research to see what's going on with pesticide exposures and reduced microbial levels.
Or as Mussen says: "As researchers continue to try to improve upon our supplemental bee feeds, they have to consider the possibility of inoculating a semisold formulation of the diet with fresh pollen and stored pollen so that a natural microbial complex can do its things and make the food appropriately fit for consumption by honey bees."
Honey bee foraging on a tidy tips wildflower, Layia platyglossa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee on a pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee pollinating nectarine blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee packing pollen while foraging on an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)