Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology recognized it right away. He's seen or heard of many a wood duck box taken over by honey bees looking for a suitable home.
It's enough to drive the duck enthusiasts quackers.
The question came up again this week, as it periodically does. Someone asked him: "How do you keep wood duck boxes for their intended purpose?" Mussen's observations are worth repeating.
"Years ago I spent some time with a UC Davis student trying to find ways to dissuade honey bees from nesting in wood duck boxes," Mussen recalled. "They had found one box in which the female duck refused to go, so the bees built their combs right down over and around her, killing her. We tried to prevent the bees from being able to grip the top of the box, where they connect their downward-hanging combs. The Teflon tape that we used prevented them from starting at the top and building down. But, they started on the wall at a corner, build some comb up against the Teflon--yes, beeswax sticks to Teflon--then built the combs down. The stickum on the Teflon tape wasn’t good enough to keep the combs stuck to the top, so the whole thing eventually collapsed in a heap."
"We tried Insectape strips (produced by Rainbow Technology) that were supposed to repel bees and wasps from building in electric boxes. We poured the artificial 'swarms' into the boxes to see if they would be driven out by the pesticide strip. It killed them--they didn’t leave. The strips might repel a real swarm under natural conditions, but that is not how we tested it."
"It would be pretty hard to determine where the swarms originate. Right around swarm time is when many beekeepers are looking for suitable locations to build up their colonies and make 'splits.' The bees need a good supply of food for building up, and beekeepers may be moving their bees close to wood duck nesting areas for the spring nectar and pollens."
One option is placing bee boxes near the wood duck boxes to trap honey bee swarms, "especially of the boxes contain some previously used combs."
"There also is a honey bee attractant--pheromone--that can be purchased from beekeeping supply companies to entice the bees into the trap box," Mussen says. "For whatever reason, the trap hives work best at about nine feet off the ground. Some of the beekeeping supply companies also offer what look like really large flower pots with a cover. They are made of some sort of wood pulp--so they don’t really look like bee boxes. By opening a quarter-sized hole in the narrow end, the pots can be put out as trap hives and work pretty well. Despite your best intentions, however, some of the swarms just ignore the trap hives and go somewhere else. So, some will end up in the duck boxes, anyway."
What to do? Visit the wood duck boxes frequently to remove the bees before they accomplish much. "Unfortunately, once they have built some comb in the box," Mussen says, "the odor makes the box much more attractive to the next swarm."
Another issue: some folks troubled by the declining bee population insist on letting honey bees be. "We have become 'blessed' with an increasing number of individuals who believe that honey bees should be left to their own devices, to do whatever happens," he says.
So, to all those folks wanting to retain wood duck boxes for ducks, Mussen says to engage in periodic monitoring to help out their feathered, webbed buddies. That includes removing the bees.
Mussen didn't say this, but I think he meant that you don't have to get up at the "quack of dawn" to do it.
This wood duck box is being used as a bee hive in The Bee Sanctuary on the UC Davis campus. Examining it is Derek Downey who directs The Bee Collective and The Bee Sanctuary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Especially when the result is an auction item.
Take the case of "The Sting," a memorable lunch-hour photo that went viral. Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen and I were walking through the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, when he stopped abruptly. "Kathy, get your camera ready," he said. "A bee is about to sting me."
The resulting image shows a trail of abdominal tissue, aka "guts."
It's copyrighted, registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, but after being named one of Huffington Post's Most Amazing Photos of 2012 and one of the World's Most Perfectly Timed Photos, it now appears on the Internet as owned by thousands of others--people with no qualms about removing my copyright; inserting their own copyright; uploading it; tagging it with the URL of their website; or trying to use it for commercial purposes.
All copyright infringements.
Meanwhile, the photo keeps traveling 'round the world, accompanied by assorted comments:
- "So, you sat around all day torturing bees to get that photo, right?" (Wrong. I've never killed a bee in my entire life, except for the one I accidentally stepped on in Hawaii.)
- "That poor guy. What kind of friend are you? Why didn't you put the camera down and help him?" (Sorry, that's not what happened.)
- "It's posed." (Nope.)
- "It's Photo-Shopped." (Nope.)
- "That abdominal tissue is fake. That's a piece of string." (Nope.)
- "It's a wasp." (Nope.)
- "It's not a real bee." (Wrong. It is--or was--a Carniolan bee reared by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, now of Washington State University.)
Fast forward to November of this year. Eric and his wife, Helen, decided to offer the mounted image as an auction item at the California State Beekeepers' Conference, held Nov. 19-21 at Lake Tahoe. Both Eric and I signed it, hoping that it would net a few dollars for CSBA.
So, how much did CSBA receive?
Ready for this? $900.
John Miller of Newcastle, outgoing president of CSBA, placed the winning bid. "The photo," he said, "will be in my house for visitors to enjoy/squirm while viewing."
And yes, he's been stung like that, with the abdominal tissue trailing. Usually a bee sting is a clean break.
"If you keep bees – sooner or later – you're going to take an ugly stinging," Miller commented. "I feel sorry for the bee. Usually, she is merely reacting to my own behavior – which ran outside her ability to understand. I 'act out' - she dies."
You may remember John Miller from the book, The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America, written by award-winning journalist Hannah Nordhaus.
Nordhaus describes Miller as a guy who loves bees, spreadsheets, humor and his friends. He's descended from Nephi Ephraim Miller, a Mormon farmer known as "the father of migratory beekeeping" and the first beekeeper to produce "the nation's first million-pound crop of honey."
Miller, based in Gackle, N.D. and Newcastle, Calif., maintains one of the biggest beekeeping operations in the country. Nordhaus hints that it's not quite as big as South Dakota's Richard Adee, who has 80,000 hives.
Miller has a "Jimmy Stewart-like voice and an eternally bemused expression," Nordhaus writes. Miller doesn't cuss. No, indeed. Nordhaus points out that he uses "cowboy words" (especially when he gets stung).
Now "The Sting" is in Miller's house "for visitors to enjoy/squirm while viewing."
Me thinks that once they see his prized auction item, they will not only squirm, but utter a few choice words of their own. Non-cowboy words.
This image, "The Sting," drew $900 at the California State Beekeepers' Association auction. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology since 1976 and an upcoming retiree, will be "roasted" at the California State Beekeepers' Association conference, to be held Nov 19-21 at Lake Tahoe, Nev.
But someone will be going home with a little piece of him.
Mussen is donating an auction item, a mounted photo of "The Sting," also known as "The Bee Sting Felt Around the World."
What's the story behind the story? It was like this: During a lunch hour a couple of years ago, Mussen and I were walking through the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility when he said: "Kathy, get your camera ready. This bee is about to sting me."
The bee was NOT about to sting him--the bee WAS stinging him. It was one of bee scientist Susan Cobey's Carniolan bees, doing what bees do--defending the hive.
I shot a series of four photos within a second with my Nikon D700, mounted with a 105mm macro lens and a motor drive.
The second photo in the series went on to win best feature photo and the professional skill award in a competition hosted by the international Association for Communication Excellence, a professional organization comprised of communicators, educators and information technologists in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences. The Sacramento Bee picked it up and later selected it one of its top 15 stories of 2012. Huffington Post named it one of the Most Amazing Photos of 2012. More accolades followed: Twister Sifter singled it out as one of the World's Most Perfectly Timed Photos. Along the way, it made "Picture of the Day" on scores of websites. (Bug Squad blogs about this image: The Sting, Perfectly Timed Photos, and The Bee Sting Felt Around the World.)
The copyrighted photo also appears to be one of the most stolen images on the internet. It's gone around the world innumerable times, mostly uncredited or with its copyright ripped off or replaced with someone else's copyright.
Photo aficionados marveled at the "one-of-a-kind" photo of a bee sting in action, with its abdominal tissue trailing. Others said it was Photoshopped. Not! Some said I spent the day torturing bees. Not! I don't kill bees; I photograph them. Some pitied the "poor guy" getting stung and asked how could I be so cruel as not to help him. Not what happened!
Mussen's wife later presented him with a mousepad, a coffee cup and a handmade Christmas ornament of the image. It's quite a conversation piece in Mussen's office on the third floor Briggs Hall. But it won't be for long. Mussen will be vacating his quarters and retiring in June of 2014.
But, back to the California State Beekeepers' Association.
Mussen's colleagues are going to roast him, sure as shootin' (or maybe sure as stingin'). They'll joke about his Buddy Holly glasses in the 1970s, his amicable personality, and his inability to keep in contact via cell phone (he doesn't carry one).
But someone, sure as shootin' (or maybe sure as stingin') is going home with a piece of him.
Eric Mussen and the famous bee sting photo showing a bee stinging his wrist. This mounted photo will be auctioned off at the California State Beekeepers' Association conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Eric Mussen using his mouse pad. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's a coffee cup without a bee sting image on it? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
That's a question frequently asked of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Fact is, he's an "unbee-lievable" wealth of information. The honey bee guru has served as Extension apiculturist since 1976 and writes a newsletter, from the UC apiaries and Bee Briefs, both posted on his website. When Mussen retires in June of 2014 (yes, the "R" word), he will be sorely missed.
One of the latest questions:
"A few weeks ago, the day before I left on a trip, I noticed decreased activity in my top bar hive. I looked in and saw very few bees, the queen and these dead pupae. There was no bad smell or bodies in or around the hive. When I returned and examined the hive yesterday, all the honey had been robbed (as I expected), there were only two dead bees on the floor and the remaining bee bread. I haven't looked into my three Langstroth hives yet, but the activity level looks normal. Do you have any ideas on what killed the colony, whether I need to take any special precautions regarding my other hives and whether I need to treat the top bar hive in someway before putting another colony in next spring?"
The concerned beekeeper attached a photo in his email.
Mussen responded: "No, I cannot tell you what killed the bees by looking at a photograph. But, there are clues. First, very few things happen in a colony that results in black bees. The most common cause is 'chilled brood.' That means that the brood was not incubated at the proper temperature and finally succumbed to cooler temperatures, turning black during the process. Depending upon when that happened, the pupae would be in various stages of completion to adult bees. The second set of possibilities revolves around infections with viruses. Although it is called "black queen cell virus," that virus can infect and discolor worker bees. A second RNA virus that leads to black bees is 'chronic bee paralysis.' In that case, though, it is adult bees that get 'black and greasy.' Actually, the bees have had their hairs scraped off by their nest mates. When truly bald, the exoskeleton is black and the cuticle is waxy (greasy). So, it sounds like your colony failed to thrive for some reason. The bees could no longer adequately feed or incubate the brood (lack of nurse bees?). Then, things just spiraled down. Robbing was included in the mix when the colony became weakened. Since I have no idea what put the colony out of business, I would start, again, next season using the same combs. Wait until it is warm and a good pollen flow is going on."
Failure to thrive? How many times have we heard that? It applies to bees, too.
This honey bee is doing poorly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Would the extinction of honey bees lead directly to the extinction of humans?"
That's a recent question posed on Quora, where folks can ask questions and receive answers.
The answer is "no."
"We are a resilient species that existed before beekeeping and will exist after it… but our cuisine will be very different," wrote Matan Shelomi, a Harvard alumnus and UC Davis graduate student seeking his doctorate at the University of California, Davis.
"Assuming native bees and other pollinators do not take over the job of the honey bee Apis mellifera, many of our favorite fruits and vegetables will cease to exist, or will require the very labor intensive manual pollination we see in parts of China," Shelomi noted. "Kiss almonds goodbye, for example. Staple crops like wheat, corn, and rice are not bee pollinated, however, so starvation won't be an issue."
Shelomi, who has received international recognition for his answers on Quora, is "right on," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"We've not always had honey bees here," Mussen pointed out. Indeed, the European colonists brought the honey bee to what is now Virginia in 1622. The Native American Indians had no honey bees, but they did have lots of other pollinators, including native bees. (We Californians did not obtain the services of the honey bee in our state until 1853; that's when the first honey bees arrived.)
Unfortunately, people are falsey quoting Albert Einstein as saying "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” Al Gore never invented the Internet, and Albert Einstein never said that about bees.
Without honey bees, our menu choices would be much different. But would the human race become extinct?
A honey bee heading toward almond blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)