It's National Pollinator Week and there's exciting news on the horizon.
Staff research associate Billy Synk of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, has been named director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m. (aka Project Apis mellifera or PAm),
PAm executive director Christi Heintz posted today:
"The last month has been a banner month for PAm. First, we are very fortunate to have Billy Synk joining our staff as Director of Pollination Programs. He's been UC Davis' staff research associate and beekeeper. Billy will be a great asset to PAm. He knows bees, the beekeeping industry, apiculture research, and has the skills to expand not only our habitat projects but also our research program. Secondly, the Federal Strategy to improve honey bee health was released. PAm was part of the process since the initial meeting in Washington D.C. and was mentioned twice in the final document. PAm is poised to take full advantage of the multi-agency focus on honey bees and will work hard to pursue opportunities that can help bees and beekeepers as a result of this effort. Lastly, six new studies on Varroa control were approved for funding. We are very excited to get this research underway and prevent that anniversary party for Varroa when September, 2017 rolls around and the pest has been in the country 30 years. We committed to several innovative studies that also held a good chance for success. This week is Pollinator Week, but every day is Honey Bee Day at Project Apis m.!"
As the director of Pollination Programs, Synk will be based in Sacramento and manage PAm's "Seeds for Bees" project and work with Pheasants Forever on the Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly Partnership, Heintz said.
Said Synk: "I've always been really passionate about bees, and I care about this industry, I'm enthusiastic and energized by the opportunity to work with PAm while developing and implementing programs that benefit honey bees and beekeepers."
PAm's mission "is to fund and direct research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production." It is headquartered in Paso Robles. Heinz works out of southern Arizona. "We are geographically mobile, just like beekeepers!" Heintz quipped.
Synk holds a bachelor's degree in environmental policy and management from Ohio State University, where he was trained by noted bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, who later worked at UC Davis before joining her fellow bee scientists at Washington State University. Synk appeared on the cover of the American Bee Journal in February 2014.
At UC Davis, Synk worked on research projects with bee scientists Brian Johnson and Neal Williams. He played a role in the behind-the-scenes publication of National Geographic's Quest for a Superbee. For about a year, Synk worked closely with Bay Area-based photographer Anand Varma on a time-lapsed photography project of the development of a honey bee: from an egg to an adult. You can see this incredible video on YouTube.
And, be sure to listen to Varma's TED talk on bees.
This is Xylocopa varipuncta, also known as "the teddy bear bee."
It's a green-eyed blond and as fuzzy as any teddy bear you'll ever have the pleasure of meeting. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, calls them "teddy bear bees" and the name has stuck. (And being "boy bees," they cannot sting. See close-up photo on Bug Squad.)
Scampavia, who is studying how farming practices affect bee nesting for her doctorate in entomology, recently won the top graduate student poster award at the first-ever UC Davis Bee Symposium, and provided the popular “Pollinator Pavilion” at the UC Davis Picnic Day.
She urges us to all pitch in and protect the pollinators. Good advice.
Scampavia, who studies with major professors Neal Williams and Ed Lewis of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and anticipates receiving her Ph.D. in 2016, lists three ways to “save the pollinators."
1. Provide food: Plant a variety of trees, shrubs and annual flower with blooms that differ in size, shape, color and flowering time. Planting native milkweeds also can help support monarch butterfly populations. Hummingbird and butterfly feeders can also provide additional food sources, but make sure to clean and disinfect your feeders regularly, as they can accumulate toxic fungi.
2. Provide homes: Bees can be limited by food or nesting opportunities. Native bees are usually not aggressive and unlikely to sting. A patch of bare soil can provide valuable nest sites for soil-nesting bees, particularly if the soil is loose and slightly damp. A dead stump or log, or shrubs with hollow stems, such as raspberry or elderberry, can also provide nests for cavity-nesting bees. “You can also make or order a ‘bee condo,' or a block of wood with holes of varying diameter,” she says. “Line these holes with paper tubes to make them easy to clean between years. Some bee species line their nests with rose, wisteria or fuzzy plants such as lamb's ear leaves, so growing these plants can help these bees, too.”
3. Provide pesticide shelters. As much as possible, try to reduce pesticide use in your garden, or use less toxic pesticides, such as soap sand oils. If you spray, do so when pollinators are not active--after dusk to before dawn. Try to avoid spraying flowers directly. Create a pesticide-free source of water and mud for bees and butterflies, such as a dripping faucet or a bird.
Her display showcased numerous live pollinators, including bees, butterflies and flies. She also drew in the crowds with informational posters on pollinators. The posters detailed how individuals can help support healthy pollinator populations.
Visitors could walk inside the zipped enclosure and be one-on-one with the pollinators, including the monarchs, blue orchard bees, and syprhid flies. Many took photos of the monarchs on their hands or arms. Younger visitors were encouraged to practice observing pollinators by filling out a data sheet counting the number of each type of pollinator they saw.
Scampavia recently won the top prize at the Bee Symposium with her poster, “Farming Practices Affect Nest Site Selection of Native Ground Nesting Bees.”
"Rei is mutli-talented: she is able to both conduct high quality research and communicate information about pollinators in engaging and effective ways," said Katharina Ullmann who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis (Neal Williams lab) and is now a crop pollination specialist for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. "Anyone who saw her award-winning poster at the Bee Symposium or who experience the pollinator pavilion at Picnic day knows that pollinators are lucky to have Rei working for them!"
Scampavia received her bachelor's degree in biology in 2008 from Mills College, Oakland. She began her doctoral studies at UC Davis in 2011. She earlier served as a biological science technician (plants) for the U.S. Forest Service, Groveland, Calif., and ; a research consultant for BMP Ecosciences in San Francisco.
Active in the Entomological Society of America (ESA), Scampavia was a member of the 2014 UC Davis Student Debate Team that won first place in the nationals. She also was a member of the 2013 UC Davis Linnaean Games Team that won second at the annual meeting of the Pacific Branch of ESA.
If you want to meet Rei Scampavia and "talk bees," she'll be volunteering at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven open house from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Friday, June 19. The haven, managed by staff director Chris Casey and faculty director Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist, is located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus.
The half-acre bee garden, operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is filled with blooms, bees and butterflies! The open house, free and open to the public, will include bee observation and identification, honey tasting, sales of native bee houses to support the haven, and information about low-water plants.
The garden is open to the public daily from dawn to dusk.
Based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Mussen completed 38 years of service last June and is nationally and internationally known as "the honey bee guru."
"Most of us take pollinators for granted. That's a key reason why Gov. Jerry Brown has joined other governors throughout the country to celebrate June 15-21 as National Pollinator Week. It's a time to appreciate what bees, butterflies, beetles, bats and other pollinators do. Honey bees and native bees are especially important for the pollination of our agricultural crops. Without them, we'd be pretty much confined to a boring, unappealing and non-nutritious diet of wheat and rice."
"Many beekeepers can't keep their colonies alive, no thanks to pesticides, pests, parasites, diseases, stress and malnutrition. We humans negatively impact our bee populations by converting their natural habitat to an unnatural habit (for them): airports, highways, housing projects, shopping malls, and parking lots. Food sources and nesting habitat for pollinators continue to shrink. Use of herbicides reduces what little bee-food resources are left. In some cases, pesticides kill insect pollinators outright. In other cases, chronic exposure to sublethal doses of pesticide residues disrupts normal development of immature pollinators."
Mussen asks that we all "consider planting bee-attractive flowers that bloom well beyond late summer into fall. The colonies require good-sized populations of well-fed bees to survive through winter."
"Also, we should consider restricting the use of pesticides to those times that pollinators are not attracted to blooming flowers or weeds. This would prevent acute bee kills, contamination of stored pollens, and unnecessary use of bodily energy for detoxification of pesticide residues."
He adds: "It's good to see that the Almond Board of California--with the help of an advisory committee comprise of scientists, beekeepers and growers--generated a packet of materials: “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds.” The impetus: a large number of colonies suffered serious pesticide damage during the 2014 almond pollination. The packets contain an 18-page pamphlet about honey bees, their management, and their protection. Included, as well, are two heavy-duty, laminated “Quick Guides” (in English and Spanish) to be taken into the fields as reminders of best management practices. You can request the free packets by contacting the Almond Board at (209) 549-8262 or downloading the document at http://www.almonds.com/growers/pollination. The information in the packets pertains equally well to most other crop situations."
"Our bees," Mussen says, "deserve the best."
That they do.
The wild bee research co-authored by 58 bee scientists and published today (June 16) in Nature Communications is drawing a lot of attention--and well it should.
Pointing out that wild bee diversity is declining worldwide at unprecedented rates, the researchers said steps must be taken to conserve them--and not just those that are the main pollinators of agricultural crops.
"This study provides important support for the role of wild bees to crop pollination through a comprehensive global summary,” said co-author and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “At the same time, we found that in any one region, much of the pollination services from wild bees to a given crop come from just a few species, thus we need to be careful about using a simplistic economic ecosystem-services argument for biodiversity conservation and maintain actions that target biodiversity as specific goal. "
The study, led by David Kleijn of Wageningen University, The Netherlands, found that of the almost 80 percent of crop pollination provided solely by wild bees, only 2 percent are by the most common species. This indicates that the benefits of conserving only economically important organisms are not the same as the benefits of conserving a broad diversity of species, the researchers said.
The paper, “Delivery of Crop Pollination Services is an Insufficient Argument for Wild Pollinator Conservation,” is online at http://www.nature.com/naturecommunications. Among the co-authors are native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, and conservation biologist Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley, a longtime associate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Wrote the researchers in their abstract: “There is compelling evidence that more diverse ecosystems deliver greater benefits to people, and these ecosystem services have become a key argument for biodiversity conservation. However, it is unclear how much biodiversity is needed to deliver ecosystem services in a cost-effective way. Here we show that, while the contribution of wild bees to crop production is significant, service delivery is restricted to a limited subset of all known bee species. Across crops, years and biogeographical regions, crop-visiting wild bee communities are dominated by a small number of common species, and threatened species are rarely observed on crops.”
“Dominant crop pollinators,” they pointed out, “persist under agricultural expansion and many are easily enhanced by simple conservation measures, suggesting that cost-effective management strategies to promote crop pollination should target a different set of species than management strategies to promote threatened bees. Conserving the biological diversity of bees therefore requires more than just ecosystem-service-based arguments.”
The researchers analyzed data from more than 90 studies on five continents, including Europe and North America. They concluded that the higher levels of biodiversity provide greater benefits to the functioning and stability of ecosystems, with some functions also being “economically beneficial” for humans.
Kleijn and his colleagues studied 785 species, analyzing which provide the best economic returns from crop pollination. They found that wild bee communities contribute an average of more than $3,251 per hectare (2.471 acres) to the production of crops, and that they provide the same economic contributions as managed honey bee colonies. However, they also noted that the majority of crop pollination services provided by wild bees are accomplished by only a small subset of the most common species.
“Across the 90 studies, we collected a total of 73,649 individual bees of 785 species visiting crop flowers,” the authors wrote. “Although is an impressive number, it represents only 12.6 percent of the currently known number of species occurring in the states or countries where our studies took place. When we consider only bee species that contribute 5 percent or more to the relative visitation rate of any single study, the percentage drops to 3 percent of the species in the regional species pool. Yet these 2 percent of species account for almost 80 percent of all crop visits.”
These results suggest that conservation efforts targeted directly at a few species providing the majority of ecosystem services, such as crop pollination, would represent a good strategy if the goal is to improve economic returns. However, they said such a strategy is unlikely to be compatible with conserving threatened species and biological diversity “if the goal is to improve the functioning and stability of ecosystems.”
Williams worked with Kleijn and Winfree of Rutgers University New Brunswick, N.J., to conceive of some of the approaches used, particularly suggested looking at the abundance distributions of crop bees within the larger species pools of the region to understand whether the most important crop pollinators species are simply the common bees overall. Williams and Kremen also contributed to the manuscript, from the early drafts to the final versions.
As an aside, we certainly hope that this global research packs a social media wallop and leads to efforts to protect and preserve our wild bees. Unfortunately, many people never think about wild bees. It's "out of sight, out of mind," not "absence makes the heart grow fonder."
We'd all do well to take a look at the amazing macro bee images by Sam Droege, head 'of the bee inventory and monitoring program at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). His work has been featured in publications all over the world. Among the latest: National Geographic. See his USGS work posted on Flickr. And check out his book, An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World, co-authored by Laurence Packer.
Absence CAN make the heart grow fonder...
She has her olive groves, her California olive oil company that mills what's praised as the "finest of the fine" artisan olive oil, and now...drum roll...bees.
Ann and her husband, Mark, own IL Fiorello located at 2625 Mankas Corner Road, Fairfield. They produce oil from their groves and mill oil for clients throughout the area, including UC Davis.
International award-winning olive oils.
The name, IL Fiorelli, Ann explains, means “little flower” in Italian. “IL” is "the" and "Fiorello" means "flower," from the tiny white flowers on the olive trees. Her grandfather, Dominic Fiorello, immigrated from Italy to the United States in the 1860s. She's a third-generation Fiorello.
Ann's background: She's a nationally recognized clinical nurse specialist in otolaryngology (that's head, nose and throat) surgery in the UC Davis Health System. She retired in 2013 from the Advanced Practice in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgical Oncology. Highly honored for her work, she holds RN, MA and CORLN (certified otorhinolaryngology nurse) degrees.
Then she transitioned from health care to agriculture. Bees are the latest venture.
Back in March, Rick Shubert of Bee Happy Apiaries, Vacaville, and his assistant, Brittany Dye, placed some 286 nuc boxes at IL Fiorello.
They "have honored us with queens," enthused Ann in a blog. "We should be should all be wearing crowns in honor of our most royal guests."
Bee Happy Apiaries delivered 1144 queens in 286 nuc boxes, each divided into four sections to accomodate a queen and her colony. "The bee hives are all different colors for identification of who owns the bees, what size is the box, and light colors for heat reflection," Ann wrote. "Some bee keepers paint their hives with letters and pictures for fun and to help the bees identify their home, like little different landing pads. Brittany tells me these bees' ancestors are originally from Iran, named Carnolian bees. They are known to be gentle and produce tasty honey. These bees are here for queen propagation, not honey. But lots of honey is coming in the next stage."
Ann calls it "just an amazing opportunity to see nature at work. It is so fun to watch the dance of the bees."
Plans call for bee classes "when all the buzzing settles down," Ann says. "Brittany will teach us all about bees, and Sue Langstaff, Applied Sensory Co. will buzz us through the UC Davis Honey wheel and a sweet honey taste extravaganza."
We think her grandfather would be proud.
Dominic Fiorello, known as "The Chief," had a profound respect for traditional agriculture and put his knowledge of Italian methods, Ann recalled. "Raising vegetables and fruit for the family, making wine for their table, and carefully saving seeds from year to year became part of his dreams for the future. Innately respectful of the soil that supported them and dedicated to good stewardship of the land, the Chief passed down a concern for healthy nutrition to his son, Raphael Fiorello, who also relied on traditional practices when providing for his family during the Depression. As Ann grew up, Raphael's homegrown vegetables and grapes helped the family to thrive and enjoy the great pleasures of living close to the land."
Today the Sievers have some 2000 olive trees. Daughters Elisabeth and Katherine helped plant them.
How does health care compare to being an agriculturist?
"Being in farming and having an agro tourism business is really similar to what I did in health care," Ann says. "You take care of people and you take care of trees. You guide people through the process so they learn about olive oil and they enjoy the product. The trees just don't talk back and nothing is really an emergency as occurred daily in the hospital. I am glad I am not responding to airway emergencies anymore. I use all my training in health care and sensory science to pair oils, food, wine, and agriculture. I work just as hard for guests to have a wonderful experience at Il Fiorello. I explain to guests that if I, as a farmer and producer, do not grow food then you will not eat. In this time of water shortages this topic comes up frequently."
The Sievers engage in farming "with an eye to sustainability and good stewardship of the land.” (Read more about what they do on their website.)
Today the rapidly growing IL Fiorello includes a Visitor Center and Olive Mill for tours and tastings, and offers cooking classes in its state-of-the-art kitchen in the Grove Culinary Center.
And now IL Fiorello or"little flower" keeps honey bees. Beautiful honey bees...