Posts Tagged: Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility
To bee or not to bee?
That was not the question. There was no question. The answer was "yes" before the event began.
When visiting bee scientist Jakub Gabka of Warsaw, Poland, studied at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis last summer with noted bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, she held a bee beard event for the Laidlaw crew.
Gabka struck this pose--which graces the cover of the current edition of American Bee Journal.
How did it feel? It’s heavy, it's hot, and it tickles, he said.
Cobey, now a bee researcher at Washington State University (she also teaches queen bee insemination classes and queen bee rearing classes), loves doing bee beard events.
It’s an educational and entertaining activity best done in the spring when the nectar flow is heavy, when the temperatures are optimum, and when the bees “are fat and happy,” she says.
You do not want to try this at home. Only beekeepers should do this, and with a seasoned bee beard coordinator. Proper knowledge, preparations and training of the bees are crucial. A novice, unaccustomed to being around bees, might freak out. Literally.
“The fact that honey bees are venomous insects with the ability to sting when threatened, must be respected,” Cobey says.
Cobey has organized bee beard venues at a number of places, including Ohio State University’s Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Laboratory and the Laidlaw facility (her former workplaces), and in Washington state, where she and her husband, Tim Lawrence, a county Extension director, now reside. (See her research lecture, "Enhancing Genetic Diversity in the U.S. Honey Bee Gene Pool" on the Lewis County (Wash.) Beekeepers' Association website), along with more bee beard photos.)
Beekeepers are passionate about their fascination with honey bees, Cobey acknowledges. "The ultimate beekeeping experience is getting intimate with bees and literally looking a bee in the eye."
Cobey will be writing a "how to" piece on bee bearding in the near future.
Meanwhile, if a photo is worth a thousand words, what is a photo of thousands of bees on your head worth?
Jakub Gabka, a bee scientist from Poland, held this expression for a minute during the bee beard event at UC Davis. This photo appears on the cover of the current American Bee Journal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It’s good to see so many children’s books being published about bees.
One of the latest ones is Buzz About Bees (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) by former elementary school teacher Kari-Lynn Winters, who asked for—and received—one of my photos of beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton wearing a bee beard.
Fishback, a former volunteer at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, is a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association and spends a lot of time educating people—especially schoolchildren—about bees. He also teaches beekeeping classes.
“From the first moment I opened a hive and held a full frame of brood covered with bees, I was in utopia,” Fishback said of his first encounter with bees in 2008. “Everything came together. In my hand I held the essence of core family values.”
That same year, he and his wife Darla purchased a ranch in Wilton and renamed it the BD Ranch and Apiary. They are their two daughters are pursuing a self-sustaining life. “I catapulted into this way of life, knowing that honey bees would provide us with pollination as well as a natural sweetener,” Fishback recalled.
And the bee beards? It’s an educational and entertaining activity best done in the spring when the nectar flow is heavy, when the temperatures are optimum, and when the bees “are fat and happy,” says noted bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, formerly of UC Davis and now with Washington State University. She has coordinated bee beard activities at Ohio State University, UC Davis and now WSU.
“Don’t try this at home—not without a seasoned bee-beard coordinator who adheres to the necessary preparations and precautions,” Cobey says. “The fact that honey bees are venomous insects with the ability to sting when threatened, must be respected.”
Why bee beards? Beekeepers, she points out, are not only passionate about bees but fascinated with them. Donning a bee beard provides an opportunity to observe bee behavior up, close and personal--to literally "look the bees in the eye."
The beekeepers who participated in Cobey's beard activity last year at the Laidlaw facility agreed that the beards are "heavy, hot and they tickle." After all, we're talking about wearing 10, 000 bees!
As for Winters' new book, it's a colorful, easy-to-read work with lots of interesting facts about honey bees and other bees. It does, however, contain some incorrect information, such as:
- “The swarm can contain tens of thousands of worker bees—all following the queen.” The queen doesn’t lead the swarm, as anyone who has read bee scientist Tom Seeley’s book on The HoneyBee Democracy knows.
- Winters quotes Albert Einstein as saying: “If bees disappeared, humans would have only four years left to live.” Only problem is: Einstein didn’t say that. That’s an urban legend.
- Winters also writes that cell phones may cause interference with a bee's navigational system, which bee scientists have long discounted. She advocates creating a “cell phone-free zone” near the bee hives. “Post signs and ask people not to use cell phones in that area.” We've seen scores of beekeepers answering their cell phones in the apiary or returning phone calls.
Overall, though, this is an interesting book, with catchy chapter titles, such as “”The Whole Ball of Wax” and “Bee-Ing Alone.” We passed it around in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. One bee scientist really liked the “Waggle Dance” poem on page 2. “Pretty good,” he said.
In addition to honey bees, Winters also touches on carpenter bees, mining bees, leafcutter bees and mason bees, which should inspire youngsters to go out and try to find them. She relates the difference between bees and wasps. She offers instruction on how to build a blue orchard bee (BOB) condo or nesting site (which we have in our back yard). There’s a fun game, “Leave Me BEE,” included in her book. And, a great recipe for a honey/lemon gargle.
By the time children finish reading the book, they're likely to (1) want to become an beekeeper (2) want to become a bee researcher or (3) just want to glean more information about bees.
For sure, they'll all appreciate bees more, thanks to this buzz about bees.
Wilton beekeeper Brian Fishback wearing a bee beard at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. This photo appeared in Kari-Lynn Winters' book, Buzz About Bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hi, there! Wilton beekeeper Brian Fishback waves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
There's an app for that. More specifically, there's a concerto for that.
This is one business that's very concerned about the worldwide declining bee population. One-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. Häagen-Dazs ice cream is dependent upon bees--some 50 percent of its flavors are bee-dependent.
Häagen-Dazs is a longtime and generous supporter of UC Davis bee research. Background: in 2009 the brand launched the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly and educational garden planted next to the Laidlaw facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. It's a year-around food source for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators. It provides an educational opportunity for visitors; they learn about the plight of the bees, and what they can plant in their own gardens to feed the bees.
Häagen-Dazs also funded the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Davis. It went to Michelle Flenniken, an insect virus researcher based at UC San Francisco. She's now a research assistant professor at Montana State University.
So, first a bee garden and then a fellowship for a scientist to study bee diseases. And now...drum roll...the Häagen-Dazs Concerto Timer app.
Häagen-Dazs officials today announced the introduction of the Häagen-Dazs Concerto Timer app, described as "the first iOS mobile app to integrate detailed 3D Kinect technology and video data that delivers a cutting edge augmented reality experience."
According to a press release, “The Concerto Timer app features two-minute-long music concertos that help consumers understand the exact amount of time needed to prepare their Häagen-Dazs ice cream in order to get the full, rich consistency and allow all the flavors to fully bloom. Allowing the ice cream to soften slightly – also called tempering – for two minutes enhances the texture and exposes fans to the craftsmanship of premium ingredients that is characteristic of Häagen-Dazs ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt."
So, basically, you download the free app, open your freezer and remove the Häagen-Dazs product, set it on your counter, and point your I-Phone at the lid of the cartoon. Voila! Two minutes of concerto music! Just the right amount of time to have your ice cream soften.
Now here's the good news for the bees: for every download, Häagen-Dazs will donate $5 to UC Davis bee research, up to $75,000.
Now that's a sweet gift!
Said Cady Behles, Häagen-Dazs brand manager: “The app concept came directly from our brand loyalists who recognized the necessity of tempering to enjoy all of the flavors in our ice cream. We took their feedback and developed an advanced mobile experience – something never seen before in the ice cream industry – that would be functional and also entertain them during the optimal time period.”
The video begins with the text: "Just as wine needs to breathe, Haagen-Dazs ice cream needs to soften for two minutes. Now there’s a concerto for that."
Check out the online video at http://www.multivu.com/mnr/62528-haagen-dazs-mobile-concerto-timer-app-classical-music-preparing-ice-cream and read about the app. You can download the app from I-Tunes.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, home of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven thanks you; the bees thank you; and somewhere Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), the father of honey bee genetics who devoted his entire life to the study of bees, must be smiling.
Sweet music indeed!
(Editor's Note: You can also donate to UC Davis bee research by accessing this page.)
The sign in front of the Laidlaw facility includes bees, a skep, almond blossoms and DNA. It is the work of artist Donna Billick of Davis, a co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beekeeper Billy Synk, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, demonstrates the Haagen-Dazs Concerto Timer with a cell phone and ice cream carton. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
You'll not only see honey bees in a bee observation hive, but specimens of bumble bees, cuckoo bees, carpenter bees, long-horned bees, squash bees, plasterer bees, mining bees, leafcutter bees, wool carder bees and sweat bees.
The exhibit is in the Southard Floriculture Building on the May Fair grounds, located at 655 S. First St., Dixon.
Participating are the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and the Bohart Museum of Entomology, both part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology; and the newly formed UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, headquartered at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.
Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, owner of BD Ranch and Apiary and a volunteer at the Laidlaw facility for several years, is providing the bee observation hive, a glassed-in box that enables viewers to observe the activity that goes on inside a bee hive.
Fishback, a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association and member of the California State Beekeepers' Association, is an educator as well as a beekeeper. He speaks about bees at schools, organizations and festivals. His daughter, Emily, 2, accompanies him on many of his talks.
“Emily loves bees,” said Fishback, who keeps 125 hives on his property in Wilton. She knows that a bee has six legs, four wings and five eyes, and that each bee has three body parts: the head, thorax and abdomen. She knows that a honey bee eats pollen and nectar, pollinates flowers and makes honey.”
UC Davis graduate students, including squash bee expert Katharina Ullmann and area beekeepers (among them Jesse Loren of Winters and Lindsay Weaver of Sacramento) will be available during part of the fair (weekend) to share their experiences with fairgoers.
Children attending the Dixon May Fair on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12 can make a "Honey Bee on a Stick," an arts and crafts project that doubles as a hand-held fan and puppet. Executive director Amina Harris of the Honey and Pollination Center, an area beekeeper and a former school teacher, will help the children create the take-home art. The free activity is from from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Southard Floriculture Building. Harris crafts the bee art using a yellow paper plate, duct tape, googly eyes, a stick, and pipe cleaners (for antennae).
The Dixon May Fair's floriculture building, staffed by superintendent Kathy Hicks of Dixon, includes stunning garden displays and a myriad of plants and cut flowers. It is open from 4 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Beekeeper Brian Fishback shows his daughter, Emily, his bee observation hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The first thing you notice when you walk up to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, are the natives.
Native plants, that is.
California golden poppies and phacelia are among the plants sharing the "Pollination Habitat" bed. The golden poppies literally light up the landscape. The phacelia, not so much.
The next thing you notice are the bumble bees, carpenter bees, honey bees and syrphid flies foraging on the natives. An occasional butterfly flits by.
Today a bumble bee, Bombus vandykei, buzzed from one phacelia to another. She was interested only in phacelia. Nothing else, thank you.
She quickly found herself competing with honey bees for the nectar and pollen.
A sign, "Pollinator Habitat," tells the story:
"This area has been placed with a range of flowering native plants to provide hgh waulity habitat for native bees and other pollinators. To learn how you can create good habitat for pollinators please visit www.xerces.org."
Phacelia is one of the bee plants recommended in G. H.Vansell's booklet, Nectar and Pollen Plants of California (Bulletin 517). Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, mentions phacelia in his list of good bee plants in a 2002 edition of his newsletter, from the UC apiaries.
And phacelia is also a plant that pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology at UC Davis, is studying.
Bumble bee, Bombus vandykei, foraging on phacelia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of bumble bee, Bombus vandykei. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Competition for the phacelia! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)