"Spring is the busiest time of year for honey bees, and their keepers, whether the operation is in the desert uplands of southern Arizona, the citrus groves of Florida, or the apple orchards of Washington state," writes entomologist/bee expert Stephen "Steve" Buchmann in his book, Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive.
Lately we've been watching honey bees collecting pollen from mustard, Brassica. The amount of pollen they collect is truly amazing. Each honey bee colony collects an average of 20 to 40 pounds a year, Buchmann writes.
Buchmann, the author of The Forgotten Pollinators, The Bee Tree, and other books, will soon release his next book, The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives, in July. Buchmann, an adjunct professor in the University of Arizona's Department of Entomology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tucson, and scientist-at-large for the Pollinator Partnership, San Francisco, received his doctorate in entomology from the University of California, Davis. He studied with major professor/native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, now a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology. Buchmann's dissertation was on buzz pollination.
There's an old saying "to cut the mustard," meaning that someone is good enough or effective enough for a task.
The meaning probably originated from the military term "pass muster," but with honey bees, they're not only good at passing the muster and foraging in the mustard, they excel.
How to celebrate Valentine's Day?
Well, without pollinators, we wouldn't be celebrating Valentine's Day as we know it.
That box of chocolates? Give thanks to the midges that pollinated the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao.
That bouquet of mixed flowers? Honey bees probably visited them before they were gifted to you. Among honey bee favorites are lavenders, mints, sunflowers, asters, basil, rosemary and the like.
That candle on your dining room table or fireplace? It may be made of beeswax, provided by the bees.
But to paraphase John F. Kennedy, it shouldn't be about what bees can do for us; it should be what we can do for the bees. Two of the nicest things we can do are to (1) plant a bee friendly garden, offering a diversity of their favorite seasonal plants, (2) avoid pesticides and (3) learn about the bees around us and their needs.
You can learn how to attract pollinators at a workshop set March 28 on the UC Davis campus. That's when the California Center for Urban Horticulture is sponsoring "Your Sustainable Backyard: Creating a Living Landscape." Registration is underway.
Another perfect gift for Valentine's Day is the newly published California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardener and Naturalists (Heyday), the work of Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville and Gretchen Ertier, all with UC Berkeley connections, and one with a UC Berkeley/UC Davis connection. That would be native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley.
As the authors point out, California is home to some 1600 species of bees. In their must-have book, they describe bee behavior, social structure, flight season, preferred flowers, and natural enemies. They offer "recipes" for bee gardens and list how you can become involved with projects that protect bees and promote public awareness.
Can't you just hear the bees communicating "Bee Mine?"
If you see a news story about "honey bees" in a newspaper or magazine, odds are you'll see it spelled as one word, "honeybees."
That's because the Associated Press Stylebook, the journalists' "bible," spells it that way. So do dictionaries.
However, in the entomological world, that's incorrect. "Honey bee" is two words because it's a true bee, just like "bumble bee." Similarly, you wouldn't spell "dragonfly" as "dragon fly" because a dragonfly is not a fly.
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) governs the worldwide references to insects in its Common Names of Insects. If you want to know the common name, scientific name, order, family, genus, species and author, the ESA database provides it. Type in a name and a drop-down menu appears. Find the honey bee!
Common name: Honey bee
Scientific name: Apis mellifera Linnaeus
Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology writes about the misspelling in the Kids' Corner of her recent newsletter, from the UC Apiaries. "Since starting my new job at UC Davis, I have been corrected a few times for spelling 'honey bee' as two words rather than 'honeybee,' a single word. What do you think: which one is more appropriate?"
She goes on to explain why "honey bee" is accurate. "Honey bees belong to an order of insects (a group of insects that have several similar features) named Hymenoptera which contains bees, wasps, sawflies and ants. You might even say they are 'true' bees and therefore, should be spelled as two words."
In an article published in a 2004 edition of Entomology Today, the Entomological Society of America's communications program manager Richard Levine acknowledges that "Writing insect names using American English can be difficult. Some species have different names depending on where you are, or with whom you are speaking (think 'ladybug' or 'ladybird' or 'lady beetle'). More often than not, an insect may not even have an official common name because out of the million or so insects that have been discovered and described, only a couple of thousand have been designated with common names by the Entomological Society of America (ESA)."
"To make matters worse," Levine writes, "even the ones that DO have official common names — ones that we see nearly every day — may have different spellings depending on whether they appear in scientific publications or other print media, such as newspapers or magazines."
So the "bible" of journalists--or what the Associated Press sanctions and governs--does not always agree with the scientific "bible" of the entomological community--or what ESA sanctions and governs.
"The reason for the discrepancy is that entomologists use two words if a common name accurately describes the order to which a particular insect belongs," Levine points out. "For example, all true flies belong to the order Diptera, so true fly names will be spelled using two words by entomologists — house fly, horse fly, pigeon fly, or stable fly, for example. However, despite their names, dragonflies and butterflies are NOT true flies — their orders are Odonata and Lepidoptera, respectively — so they are spelled as one word."
As an aside, we wonder if the controversy over the spelling of "honey bee" extends to spelling bees. Would judges eliminate someone for spelling "honey bee" with a space in between? "H-O-N-E-Y (space) B-E-E?"
Still, things can and do change. For years, the AP Stylebook editors insisted that "under take" is two words, not one. They've relented now, and it's one word, "undertake." Glory bee!
Will the AP Stylebook follow the ESA's Common Names of Insects and decide it's "honey bee," not "honeybee?" Will the AP Stylebook give the honey bee some space? Just a little space?
Stay tuned. Or stay buzzed.
Stephanie Hsia, a master of landscape architecture candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), has just created a marvelous 46-page digital story, http://almondandbee.com, which she plans to turn into a book. It's about the spatial relationship between the almond tree and the honey bee over time.
"I was inspired to create socially engaging and ecologicalperformative places and hope to bring my passion for enhancing natural systems to the urban environment," said Stephanie, who holds a master in environmental science and management from UC Santa Barbara's Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Before enrolling at Harvard, she worked in environmental consulting and at urban ecology and watershed non-profits.
Her passion for pollinators extends to keeping bees on the rooftop of her school building.
A little bit more about Stephanie: Her interest in entomology first peaked when she was an undergraduate student. "During one of my summers, I had the opportunity to work at a lab studying wasp behavior and butterfly learning. I would sit in large cages with wasps, and note how they would react to different stimuli (e.g., caterpillars in leaf shelters, leaf shelters with frass, etc). We also ran experiments watching butterflies forage to see if they could learn to prefer a different flower color based on nectar reward."
"As a designer, I developed an interest in pollination during my second semester at the Harvard Graduate School of Design--I used the idea of pollination to attract people and pollinators to a park redesign, and developed a planting palette and a promenade that would do so."
Stephanie became interested in almonds in early 2014 while developing a grant application. The grant funded her travel through California almond orchards in May 2014. She spent a week in "almond country." She met with experts at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, the Almond Board, the Blue Diamond Cooperative, beekeepers, almond farmers and almond farmers who also kept bees in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.
One of the people she met was pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He filled her on his research and offered tips on people to meet and places to see.
"I also took a helicopter ride in Fresno County to shoot aerial images of the almond orchards," Stephanie said. "I'm scared of heights, so I was a bit worried about this part of the trip, but it was really worth it, and not quite so scary when you experience the ride through the lens of a camera!"
"The shape of the project developed during my fall 2014 semester. I thought an illustrated story would allow me to combine my photographs, maps, and drawings, with found historical images in an engaging and accessible form. I would like the story to reach a wide audience, so developing a visually interesting project was very important. We've built this expansive and what is essentially a massive bee infrastructure that is very surprising. The story is about how that came to be, but it's also an argument for holistic thinking in agriculture that could be both cultural and economically significant."
Stephanie said she started learning about beekeeping in fall 2013, "but really started to keep bees when I took over as the head of the GSD bees group at the school in spring 2014." The small group of students has kept bees on the rooftop "for a few years now," she notes. "It was a steep learning curve, but so rewarding, and I'm keeping my fingers cross that the bees make it through this tough winter!"
When you access the first page of http://almondandbee.com, two key sentences coax you to read more: "The almond and the bee. The spatial relationship of the orchard, bee, and dwelling through time."
Almonds and bees need each other, she points out. Almonds are the first California crop to bloom "when honey bee colonies numbers are at their lowest." Today California's has more than 900,000 acres. Each acre requires two bee colonies for pollination. And every year some 1.6 million colonies, or approximately 60 percent of the nation's colonies, are trucked to California.
"California almonds are exported to more than 80 countries, making it the most valuable and profitable specialty agricultural export in the U.S.," she writes.
"The relationship between almond growers and migratory beekeepers are in many ways analogous to that of the fruit tree and the bee—one is sedentary and one is mobile, but both depend on one another," Stephanie writes.
In her digital story, she traces the modern history of the honey bee, touches on traditional beekeeping methods, mentions the invention of the Langsroth hive in 1851, and takes a peek at the future of beekeeping and almond orchards.
It's an informative, creative and well-designed story.
There's a lot of interest building in this seminar.
He will be hosted by fellow bee scientist Brian Johnson, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Zayed leads a research program on honey bee behavioral genetics and genomics. In his talk, Zayed will summarize his group's recent findings on patterns of positive selection in the honey bee genome, and show how integrative genomic analyses can be used to chart the bee's genotype-phenotype map.
Zayed completed his bachelor's degree in environmental science with honors in 2000, and his doctorate in biology in 2006, both at York University. He was awarded the Governor General's prestigious Gold Medal in 2007 for his doctoral research on bee conservation genetics.
Zayed held a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada's Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Illinois' Department of Entomology from 2006 to 2008 in Charles Whitfield's Laboratory. He then served as a fellow for the Institute for Genomic Biology's Genomics of Neural and Behavioral Plasticity Theme (theme leader: Gene Robinson) at the University of Illinois from 2008 to 2009.
Zayed rejoined York University's Department of Biology as an assistant professor in 2009. He earned the Ontario Government of Research and Innovation's Early Researcher Award in 2010, and was promoted to associate professor in 2014. He received the Ontario Government of Research and Innovation's Early Researcher Award in 2010.
This isn't Zayed's first time visiting the UC Davis campus. A few years ago, he completed a queen bee instrumental insemination course, taught from bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, then with the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, and now with Washington State University.
Plans call for recording the seminar for later posting on UCTV. Coordinating the seminars is professor Steve Nadler. For a list of the next speakers, see this page.