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Posts Tagged: honey bees

It's All The Buzz

Honey bees will be "all the buzz" next week when the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) meets Nov. 18-20 in Valencia, Calif., and the  Entomological Society of America (ESA) meets Nov. 16-19 in Portland, Ore.

Those who belong to both organizations have a decision to make: go to Portland, "The City of Roses," or to Valencia, known as "Awesometown."  They're 932 miles apart. Interestingly enough, they have more in common than you think. Both were founded in 1889.  CSBA is gathering for its 125th annual meeting while ESA is holding its 62nd annual meeting.

ESA, headed by Frank Zalom, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will discuss scores of insects, including honey bees. Topics include "Nutrition and the Health and Behavior of Wild and Managed Bees" and "New Frontiers in Honey Bee Health Economics: Incorporating Entomological Research and Knowledge into Economic Assessments."

CSBA, headed by Bill Lewis of the San Fernando Valley, will zero in on safe pollination of almond orchards, urban beekeeping, honey bee forage and nutrition, mead-making, and honey bee health, exacerbated by pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress. Varroa mites continue to be the beekeepers' No. 1 problem.

At the CSBA meeting, Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who serves as the organization's current apiculturist and parliamentarian (as well as a frequent speaker), will pass the torch--a smoker?--when he  introduces the new Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Nino in a Nov. 20th presentation. It's titled "California Extension Apiculturist--Passing the Torch." 

What we need now in California is rain. The drought worries us all. (Listen to what Mussen recently told Capital Public Radio about bees, the lack of floral resources, and the drought.)

And, as if on cue, it rained today. A honey bee in the apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility ventured from its hive and encountered something it may not have seen before: rain drops.

A honey bee encounters rain drops Nov. 13 in the midst of the California drought. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee encounters rain drops Nov. 13 in the midst of the California drought. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee encounters rain drops Nov. 13 in the midst of the California drought. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is what beekeepers want more of: rain and forage for their bees. This is a blue aster, member of the sunflower family. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is what beekeepers want more of: rain and forage for their bees. This is a blue aster, member of the sunflower family. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is what beekeepers want more of: rain and forage for their bees. This is a blue aster, member of the sunflower family. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 9:25 PM
Tags: Bill Lewis (1), CSBA (1), ESA (1), Frank Zalom (1), honey bees (216)

Matadors in the Champagne Bubbles

It's cool how honey bees and syrphid flies gravitate toward the Iceland Poppy.

It's a winter plant, and frankly, there isn't much to eat out there.

The Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule), a bowl-shaped, papery flower, fills the bill.

The name is a misnomer. It's not native to Iceland. It's from the cooler regions of Europe, Asia and North America, and the mountains of Central Asia. Botanists first described it in 1759.

Like all poppies, they're poisonous. In fact, scientists tell us that all parts of poppies are poisonous. That's because they contain toxic alkaloids. This one, P. nudicaule, contains a benzophenanthidine alkaloid, chelidonine.

Nevertheless, it's a unique, delightful plant. Each flower bursts forth from a hairy, leafless stem that curves like a question mark.  When a strong gust of wind further punctuates the plant, the petals drop to the ground. Spent. How fragile are the flowers!

Cultivars can be yellow, salmon, pink, orange, rose, cream and white, as well as tri-colored. The ones in our bee garden are Champagne Bubbles, 15-inch plants in yellow, orange, pink, scarlet, apricot and cream. 

Some of the other cultivars bear equally enticing names like Flamenco, Wonderland, Party Fun, Illumination, Meadow Pastels, Victory GiantsOregon Rainbows and Matador.

Today the honey bees and syrphid flies (aka hover flies or flower flies) jockeyed for position, almost engaging in critter combat in a swirl of autumn color, a veritable kaleidoscope of activity.

Matadors in the Champagne Bubbles...

A syrphid fly, aka hover fly or flower fly, on an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A syrphid fly, aka hover fly or flower fly, on an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A syrphid fly, aka hover fly or flower fly, on an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A green bottle fly soaking up sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A green bottle fly soaking up sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A green bottle fly soaking up sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee gathering pollen. In the foreground: a freeloader fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee gathering pollen. In the foreground: a freeloader fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee gathering pollen. In the foreground: a freeloader fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two syrphids sharing an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two syrphids sharing an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two syrphids sharing an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Good News for the Bees!

Good news for the honey bees!

And none too soon.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today (Oct. 29) in a press release that "more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees, which play an important role in crop production."

 “The future of America's food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations,” Vilsack said in the USDA release. “Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area.”

The declining honey bee population is besieged with health issues, exacerbated by pests, parasites, pesticides, diseases, stress and malnutrition  Nationally, however, honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. If you enjoy such produce as almonds, apples, cherries, cucumbers, and peaches, thank a bee for its pollination services.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing the effort on five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Why the Midwest? "From June to September, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter."

The announcement renews and expands what USDA calls "a successful $3 million pilot investment that was announced earlier this year and continues to have high levels of interest."  It's all part of the June 2014 Presidential Memorandum – Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs.

Funding will be provided to producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications are due Friday, Nov. 21.

This means that the farmers and ranchers will receive support and guidance to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. This will include appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management. In addition to providing good forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators, the actions taken are expected to reduce erosion, increase soil health and inhibit invasive species.

California also will benefit. "This year, several NRCS state offices are setting aside additional funds for similar efforts, including California – where more than half of all managed honey bees in the U.S. help pollinate almond groves and other agricultural lands – as well as Ohio and Florida," according to the release.

A nice push for the pollinators!

Honey bee foraging on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee foraging on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 9:26 PM
Tags: honey bees (216), mustard (2), NRCS (1), pollinators (2), Tom Vilsack (1), USDA (1)

Best Management Practices for Honey Bees

The Almond Board of California will unveil its Honey Bee Best Management Practices tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 16) in an ongoing effort to promote and protect bee health.

The board will do so by holding a press conference at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time with questions directed at Richard Waycott, CEO, Almond Board of California; 
Bob Curtis, associate director of Agricultural Affairs, Almond Board of California
 and Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

It promises to be a comprehensive set of Best Management Practices or BMPs. Media members who wish to participate can access this page.

Remember last spring when beekeepers in the San Joaquin Valley almond orchards reported losing 80,000 colonies?  Beekeepers believe that pesticides killed their bees after the almond pollination season ended but just before they could move their bees to another site.

Mussen wrote about the issue in the March/April edition of his newsletter, from the UC apiaries, published on his website. We also blogged about it.

"When should the colonies be allowed to leave the orchards?" Mussen asked. "When pollination no longer is happening. That does not mean that the bees should remain in place until the last petal falls from the last blossom."

Communication is key to a good BMP. The Almond Board recently published three informational pieces, “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds,” "Honey Bee Best Management Practices Quick Guide for Almonds,” and “Applicator/Driver Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds” (in English and Spanish).

The topics include:

  • Preparing for arrival
  • Assessing hive strength and quality
  • Protecting honey bees at bloom
  • Honey bees and insecticides
  • Honey bees and fungicides
  • Using integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to minimize agricultural sprays
  • Honey bees and self-compatible almond varieties
  • Best management practices for pest control during almond bloom
  • Removing honey bees from the orchard
  • Addressing suspected pesticide-related honey bee losses
  • What to expect in an investigation

The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), headed by Dennis van Engelsdorp, produced three short videos as the result of a 2012-2013 beekeeping survey.  Project Apis m (PAm) published some of the information online about varroa mites, nosema, honey bee nutrition and the like.

It's important for almond growers and beekeepers to keep the lines of communication open. Bees make a "bee line" toward the almond blossoms, but the growers and the beekeepers don't always make a timely "bee line" toward one another to resolve issues that surface.

Honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Almond orchard buzzing with bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almond orchard buzzing with bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Almond orchard buzzing with bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 9:26 PM

The Bees and the Blue Angels

Honey bees and the Blue Angels...

Honey bees sometimes seem to fly in formation over such plants as flowering artichokes, but their precision--if you could call it that--never matches that of the Blue Angels.

For one, the pollen-packing bees are wobbly and bump into one another. But they always seem to know where they're going and how to get there. They're the pride and joy of the agricultural world as they collect pollen and nectar.

The Blue Angels' flight demonstration squadron is the pride and joy of the U.S. Navy. In fact, their mission is " to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach."

The Blue Angels' show drew thousands of spectators on Sunday in San Francisco.  We watched the  aerobatics from the deck on the Flying Fish charter sportsfishing boat. We we all surged with patriotism, excitement and awe as the Blue Angels maneuvered their Hornets into diamond and delta formations, solos, slow passes, barrel rolls and tight turns.

Honey bees engage in their own kind of air show as they carry their pollen and nectar back to the hive. They don't do diamond and delta formations or barrel rolls, but back at the hive, they know how to perform waggle and round dances, making slow passes and tight turns.

Honey bee
Honey bee "squadron" aiming for the flowering artichokes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee "squadron" aiming for the flowering artichokes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue Angels maneuvering their Hornets into a diamond formation. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue Angels maneuvering their Hornets into a diamond formation. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue Angels maneuvering their Hornets into a diamond formation. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bees buzzing by, performing their solo missions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bees buzzing by, performing their solo missions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bees buzzing by, performing their solo missions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue Angels roar past the city of San Francisco. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue Angels roar past the city of San Francisco. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue Angels roar past the city of San Francisco. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, October 13, 2014 at 8:08 PM
Tags: bees (2), Blue Angels (1), Fleet Week (1), honey bees (216), Hornets (1), San Francisco (1)

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