Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
"Where do foraging bees go to die?"
That question was asked this week of honey bee guru Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, who serves as the statewide Extension apiculturist.
"Do they return to the hive? Do they retire and live out their last days inside?" he was asked.
We've all seen worker bees in the throes of death. After all, they live only four to six weeks in the busy season. But the queen bee, which can lay some 2000 eggs a day, quickly replaces them.
"Since we do not know exactly where they go, we say that they fly off in the final moments of life, lose altitude and land on whatever is beneath them, moribund," Mussen says. "They are still able to sting for quite a few minutes, as can be attested to by neighbors who find moribund bees in their lawns or swimming pools, but they die relatively soon. Bees have enzyme systems that deal with flight and when the enzymes give out, so does flight."
Mussen points out that "a few of the dying bees, maybe 15 or so, of the 1,000 or more that die daily (in a colony) during the spring, summer, and fall, do die in--or in front of--the hive."
When those bodies lose some moisture, the "undertaker bees" carry away the lighter-weight bodies and drop them 150 feet or more away from the hive, studies show. "Most of the rest just drop, somewhere, when they no longer can forage or stay in the air," Mussen says. "Bees do fly up to four miles from the hive in any compass direction, so they drop out there in that 50-square mile area."
A worker bee staggers and extends her tongue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This honey bee died soon after this photo was taken. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"For many years, beekeepers and environmentally interested individuals have expressed the opinion that the use of neonicotinoid insecticides ("neonics") have interfered with the ability of honey bees and native bees to conduct their life activities properly," begins Extension apicuturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology in his latest edition of his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries.
"Since laboratory studies have detailed the disruptive effect on those insects, it was suggested that the same things were happening in the field. Unanticipated losses of formerly strong honey bee colonies, and easily observable decreases in bumble bee sightings, correlated well with increased use of neonics."
Mussen goes on to talk about the neonic situation in Europe and what the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has to say about the controversial issue. EFSA concluded that the neonicotinoid pesticides posed a “high acute risk” to pollinators, including honey bees, but that a definitive connection between the chemicals and loss of colonies in the field remained to be established, Mussen wrote.
Mussen, California's only Cooperative Extension apiculturist and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976, says the situation is not that simple. Read why. His newsletter is available free on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website. Access his web page and then click on "March/April 2013."
Honey bee heading for a catmint (Nepeta) patch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When there's so much pain, grief and sorrow in the world, it's time to shut off the TV, log off the computer, exit the house, and photograph honey bees.
Watching honey bees foraging in the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, is therapy enough. They are sisters, sisters with a job to do, and so little time to do it. Buzzing from one blossom to another, gathering nectar and pollen, they are a symphony of color, grace and sound, unlike the cacophony that savagely screams from the 10 o'clock news.
"The murmuring hum of bees on a warm afternoon is surely part of everyone's mental picture of a perfect summer day," write Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World. "But that relentless hum, soporific perhaps, to the idling human, is in reality the produce of a machine-like urge to work--to work against the clock of the seasons, to gather enough pollen and nectar before the weather breaks, before the blooms fade."
What they do every day is for the greater good--the good of the colony. They set an example that the human race should follow.
Yet the winter of 2012-2013 may prove to be the worst yet for the declining bee population, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Meanwhile, we all need to bee-lieve that the worst is over.
In more ways than one.
Honey bee foraging on tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almost like a painting, this photo of a honey bee contributes to the softer side of life. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee in flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Amina Harris of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center will, too. She's offering honey tasting, along with arts and crafts for kids, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the south building of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (RMI).
And both are free.
Mussen will greet folks from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Briggs Hall courtyard as they sample manzanita, pomegranate, lima bean, orange blossom, almond blossom and northern desert shrub (from Nevada) honey. He's coordinated the honey tasting for more than three decades.
Over at the RMI, visitors can sample honey, take a photo with a bee lady, make a cute bee that doubles as a handheld fan, buy a jar of honey, and buy notecards (yours truly donated the photos for this worthy cause).
Not to be outdone, staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk of the Department of Entomology's Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility will provide a bee observation hive in Room 122 of Briggs Hall. Folks can single out the queen and distinguish the worker bees (females) from the drones (males).
It promises to be a sweet day.
(And, oh, by the way, if you want to taste more honey flavors, be sure to register for the Honey and Pollination Center's "Luncheon in the Garden" on June 2 at RMI.)
A frame of honey in the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton shows his daughter, Emily, a bee observation hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
You'll probably like lima bean honey.
Lima beans are a honey production crop, and this varietal is one of the six honeys to be sampled at the UC Davis Department of Entomology's free honey-tasting event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 at Briggs Hall. It's all part of the 99th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen has been staffing the activitity at the UC Davis Picnic Day for more than three decades.
Every year Mussen tries to offer something new and/or different for visitors to taste. He's gathered everything from cotton honey to starthistle honey. (Starthistle, by the way, is his favorite, and is also favored by many beekeepers.)
This year, in addition to lima bean honey, the varietals are manzanita, pomegranate, orange blossom, almond blossom and northern desert shrub (from Nevada). (See the National Honey Board website for information on varietals.)
Honey bees are trucked to California from all over the country to pollinate the state's 800,000 acres of almonds. But have you ever sampled almond blossom honey? Most people haven't. It's rather strong and leaves an aftertaste, Mussen says.
What many folks are also eager to try is the reddish-tinged honey from the northern desert shrub.
The honey tasting will take place in the courtyard of Briggs Hall, which is located just off Kleiber Hall drive. Each person will be given six toothpicks, one for each varietal. Due to popular demand, two tables will be set up to accommodate everyone.
Guess which one will be the last honey to be sampled? Almond blossom honey. That's because of the aftertaste.
Honey-tasting is a popular activity at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee heading toward almond blossom. Almond blossom honey will be one of the honeys to be sampled at the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)