- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC ANR, announced the recipients of the Distinguished Service Awards today (May 20).
Mussen, who will retire in June, was honored for 38 years of outstanding service. He devotes his research and extension activities toward the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices.
Mussen, who joined the UC Davis department in 1976, is known throughout the state, nation and world as “the honey bee guru” and “the pulse of the bee industry" and as "the go-to person" when consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media have questions about honey bees.
His nominators wrote that what sets Dr. Mussen apart from his Extension-specialist peers are these seven attributes:
- His amazing knowledge of bees
- His excellent communication skills in a diverse clientele, including researchers, Extension personnel, legislators,
commodity boards, grower organizations, pesticide regulators, students, news media, and beekeeping associations at the national, state and local levels,
- His eagerness to help everyone, no matter the age or stature or expertise, from an inquiring 4-H'er to a beginning beekeeper to a commercial beekeeper
- His ability to translate complicated research in lay terms; he's described as “absolutely the best”
- His willingness—his “just-say-yes” personality---to go above and beyond his job description by presenting multiple talks to every beekeeping association in California, whether it be a weekday, evening or weekend, and his willingness to speak at a wide variety of events, including pollinator workshops, animal biology classes, UC activities and fairs and festivals
- His reputation for being a well-respected, well-liked, honest, and unflappable person with a delightful sense of humor; and
- His valuable research, which includes papers on antiobiotics to control American foulbrood; fungicide toxicity in the almond orchards; the effect of light brown apple moth mating pheromone on honey bees; the effects of high fructose corn syrup and probiotics on bee colonies; and the invasion and behavior of Africanized bees. He is often consulted on colony collapse disorder and bee nutrition.
"Without question, Eric is the No. 1 Extension person dealing with honey bees in the nation, if not the world," said MacArthur Genus Awardee Professor Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight University Professor Apiculture/Social Insects at the University of Minnesota. "Research colleagues, beekeepers and the public are all very lucky to have him.”
Said Extension Specialist John Skinner of the University of Tennessee: “Eric is one of the most well-respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation. If I could select one person to represent the apicultural scientific community including research, regulation and extension, I would choose Eric.”
“Those of us in the bee industry who have been privileged to know and work with Eric appreciate his vast knowledge of honey bees and great communication skills," Gene Brandi, legislative chairman of the California State Beekeepers' Association. "Whether addressing scientists, beekeepers, growers, government officials, the media or anyone else, Eric can be relied upon to convey scientifically accurate information about honey bees and the beekeeping industry.”
Said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis: "He has played an invaluable role as a linchpin between honey bee researchers and the beekeeping industry and the commodity groups which depend on honey bees for pollination of their crops. His knowledge of honey bees and their biology, management and colony health is highly valued by his colleagues and clients. Eric is not only our state expert on all topics relating to honey bees, but is sought after by national level organizations to participate on committees dealing with the most important concerns of the beekeeping industry."
Highly honored by his peers at the regional, state and national levels, Mussen received the prestigious American Association of Professional Apiculturists Award for Apicultural Excellence, and scores of other awards. He's served as the president of numerous organizations and keynoted their conferences.
A native of Schenectady, N.Y., Mussen received his bachelor's degree in entomology from the University of Massachusetts (after turning down an offer to play football at Harvard) and then received his master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota in 1969 and 1975, respectively.
His doctoral research focused on the epidemiology of a viral disease of larval honey bees, sacbrood virus. "During those studies I also was involved in studies concerning sunflower pollination and control of a microsporidian parasite of honey bees, Nosema apis," Mussen recalled. "Now a new species of Nosema has displaced N. apis and is even more difficult to keep subdued."
"I am basically all pro-bee,” Mussen told the American Bee Journal in a two-part feature story published in the September of 2011. “Whatever I can do for bees, I do it...It doesn't matter whether there is one hive in the backyard or 15,000 colonies. Bees are bees and the bees' needs are the bees' needs.”
Mussen credits his grandfather with sparking his interest in insects. His grandfather, a self-taught naturalist, would take his young grandson to the woods to point out flora and fauna.
The UC ANR Distinguished Service Awards are given biennially for outstanding contributions to the teaching, research and public service mission of the Division, Allen-Diaz said.
The 2013-2014 award recipients:
- Outstanding Extension – Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis for bees.
- Outstanding Research – Mark Battany, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara countiesfor viticulture.
- Outstanding New Academic – David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County for nut crops.
- Outstanding Team – Ken Tate, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, and Rob Atwill, director of Veterinary Medicine Extension at UC Davis, are the recipients of the Outstanding Team Award. Since 1994, Tate and Atwill have collaborated on a series of projects assessing the potential risk to rangeland surface-water quality and human health from livestock associated pollutants.
- Outstanding Leader – Pamela Geisel, former director of the statewide UC Master Gardener Program. Although Pam retired recently, since this nomination package was very strong, I believe it's appropriate and important to give Pam this much-deserved award.
- Outstanding Staff – Michael Yang, UCCE agricultural assistant in Fresno County for small farms.
Each of the individual award recipients will receive $2,000 and a certificate. The team award recipients will receive individual certificates and share $5,000.
The Academic Assembly Council Program Committee, chaired by Joe Grant, reviewed the DSA nominations and presented their recommendations to Allen-Diaz. Committee members were Rachel Surls, Becky Westerdahl, Scott Oneto and Jennifer Heguy.