Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
"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)
Hollywood movie refer to them as "killer bees." Ditto, the news media.
"The known natural distribution of Africanized honey bees (AHB) in California is along a line that runs diagonally from northeastern Tulare County to southwestern San Luis Obispo County, then south to Mexico," says Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "A colony of AHB was found in Madera County following almond pollination, and the agricultural commissioner decided to call the county colonized instead of participating in a delimiting survey. However, beekeepers in Fresno County are just beginning to report encountering a few more considerably defensive colonies than they used to."
"In southern California, where AHB has been since 1994, they have pretty well filled the basin," Mussen reports. "The last time tests on feral (not human-kept) honey bee colonies and swarms were conducted, AHB were determined to be a little over 80 percent of the totals. That still may be the case with feral bees in that area, although one would expect a bit lessening of defensive behavior over time, as has happened in Brazil."
But, as Mussen points out, "it took 40 years to reach the point that AHB are not too problematic in Brazil. We have had them in California only 18 years."
“There’s no way to tell if honey bees are Africanized without DNA testing,” says Mussen, who writes from the UC Apiaries and Bee Briefs on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website. “They look about the same as the European honey bee. They tend to be a little darker than European honey bees and a little smaller. What sets them apart is their intensive defensive behavior. They’ve been known to chase their victims a quarter of a mile.”
When beekeepers find intensive defensive behavior in their hives, they kill the queen bee and “requeen” the colony. “Over four to six weeks, the original workers die of old age and the new queen replaces them with more daughters,” Mussen said.
Africanized honey bees are the result of attempts to hybridize European honey bees (Apis mellifera) with an African race. Researchers brought Tanzanian queen bees (Apis mellifera scutella) to Brazil in the 1950s. In 1957, some of the African bee descendants escaped from the researchers and beekeepers and began progressing north.
The descendants reached southern Texas in 1990 and southern California in 1994. “In California, they were first found “just outside of Blythe, in Riverside County,” Mussen recalls.
“As an area becomes colonized, the Africanized bees will show their true colors—they will exhibit their intense defensive behavior,” says Mussen, an Extension apiculturist since 1976,
Mussen recommends that anyone working or relaxing in areas known to be colonized by
Africanized bees “take precautions” by avoiding nesting areas. If the bees start to sting, cover your face with a shirt as you run for a building, vehicle or other shelter, he says. You can also carry an Army surplus gnat/mosquito veil with you to protect your face.
The honey bees’ pheromone, resembling the scent of a banana, sounds the alarm, alerting other bees to attack.
Beekeepers who collect swarms in colonized counties have a “high probability” of hiving an Africanized honey bee colony, Mussen points out, and should always look for unacceptable defensive behavior.
His advice: "It still is not a good idea to collect swarms in southern California and hive them in high human population areas."
“Africanized honey bees are not something to be feared,” Mussen said, “but they are to be respected.”
(Note: Click on this USDA map to see where the Africanized bees are now.)
Just by looking at this feral colony, you cannot tell Africanized bees from European honey bees (EHB). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If this cluster were in southern California, these could be Africanized bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)