Did you know that honey bees visit more than two million flowers just to make a pound of honey?
Two million visits for one pound?
That's just one of the tidbits about honey that will be mentioned Friday, Oct. 21 at the all-day “Honey!” event at the UC Davis Conference Center, 550 Alumni Center.
"How can the 60,000-some bees in a hive live in such a chaotic environment, divide up the jobs, do them well, and get everything done?" asks Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
He'll tell you at the "Honey!" event.
This one-of-a-kind event, sponsored by the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis, will take place from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Co-sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Entomology, the event will include six experts discussing honey-related topics, a honey-themed lunch, and honey and mead tasting. In addition, displays will feature a bee observation hive by Brian Fishback of Wilton and beekeeping equipment from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
Among the speakers will be three bee scientists from the UC Davis Department of Entomology: Extension apiculturst Eric Mussen speaking on “The Wonder of Honey Bees”; assistant professor Brian Johnson, “How Bees Cooperate to Make Honey and What They Do With It”; and emeritus professor Norm Gary, discussing “Hobby Beekeeping in Urban Environments.”
Other UC Davis speakers: Louis Grivetti, professor emeritus, Department of Nutrition, discussing “Historical Uses of Honey as Food” and Liz Applegate, professor, Department of Nutrition and director of Sports Nutrition Program, “Sweet Success—Honey for Better Health and Performance.”
The program will begin at 9 a.m. light refreshments, served until 10 a.m. Speakers, lunch, more speakers, honey tasting, and mead tasting will follow. The event ends with a refreshment reception at which Norm Gary will sign and sell his recently published book on backyard beekeeping.
Coordinating it all is Clare Hasler-Lewis, executive director of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.
If you're like to attend, you'll want to make reservations now. The deadline to make reservations is Friday, Oct. 14. Recently reduced costs are $50 for the general public and for folks with connections to the beekeeping industry; $35 for UC faculty members, staff and Friends of the RMI; and $25 for students.
To reserve your space, you can contact Kim Bannister at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-5171. Payments may be made online at http://robertmondaviinstitute.ucdavis.edu/honey.
And while we're at it, let's thank the bees!
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, is awash with autumn colors, despite the persistent rains.
The half-acre bee friendly demonstration garden, like the insects that feed there, beckons and withdraws, and attracts and detracts, as plants, prey and predators come and go.
Honey bees dislike rain, but in between showers--sun breaks!--you'll see them gathering pollen and nectar to take back to their hives.
A sun break means no work break for these industrious bees.
Often you'll hear kindergarten students asking one another: "What's your favorite color?"
Beekeepers do that, too--in a joking sort of way. Some like to rear the blond Italians; some prefer the darker Carniolans, developed from the area of the Carniolan Alps in southeastern Europe; and others opt for the even darker bees, the Caucasians, originating from the Caucasus Mountains of eastern Europe.
It's the desirable traits, not the color, though, that really matters.
"More than 20 breeds of bees have been identified, and many of these have been tested by beekeepers for their ability to live in manmade hives, as well as their adaptability to the moderate climates of the world," writes Bee Culture editor Kim Flottum in his excellent book, The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden.
"Many species," Flottum continues in his book, "have been abandoned by beekeepers because they possess undesirable traits, such as excessive swarming, poor food-storage traits, or extreme nest protection."
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, who has a dual appointment with the University of California, Davis and Washington State University, is partial to her New World Carniolans, a bee line she established.
Overall, the Carniolans are known as a good colder-weather bee. The Italians, though, are the most common bee in the United States. Sometimes you'll see an Italian bee so blond it's lemony.
Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, chair of the California State Apiary Board, rears Italians, which leads to good natured-ribbing between her and Cobey about "the best bee."
If you're interested in genetic diversity, mark your calendar for May 2, 2012. Cobey will speak on “Importation of Honey Bee Germplasm to Increase Genetic Diversity in Domestic Breeding Stocks" at her seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis. It's part of a series of seminars that the UC Davis Department of Entomology is sponsoring. Plans are to webcast this; so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, take a look at foraging honey bees in your neighborhood. Like the patchwork coat in the Dolly Parton song, "Coat of Many Colors," you'll see many colors.
Many, many colors. And some belong to young bees with a fuzzy thorax and fresh wings, and some to old bees with a bare thorax and tattered wings.
What's your favorite bee? Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology who maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, says that "beauty is only skin (integument) deep."
"I prefer the ones with a good disposition regardless of their external appearance even on a 'bad hair day,'" Thorp says.
As for me, to paraphrase American humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935), "I've never met a bee I didn't like."
I haven't met any of those highly aggressive, super-defensive Africanized bees, though.
The places to "bee" for beekeepers in September and November are the Big Island of Hawaii and the not-so-little-city of Rohnert Park, Calif.
The Western Apicultural Society, founded by UC Davis scientists in 1978, has scheduled its annual conference for Sept. 12-15 at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, Big Island, north of Kona.
The California State Beekeepers' Association, organized in 1889, will gather Nov. 15-17 for its 2011 convention at Sonoma/Wine Country Doubletree Inn at Rohnert Park.
Bee health, and the latest updates on colony collapse disorder (CCD), will be among the topics at each conference.
Among the UC Davis experts participating at both conferences will be Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976 and one of the founders of the Western Apicultural Society.
It's called "WAS" for short, but there's nothing past tense about it.
Meanwhile, you can get up-to-date bee news by reading Mussen's from the UC apiaries newsletters and Bee Briefs, both located on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website and downloadable for free.
The declining bee population: Does chlorine in a swimming pool have anything to do with it?
Ever since PBS NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels interviewed Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and several other UC scientists and bee folks on the declining honey bee population, it's been busy on the bee front.
Everyone seems to have a theory on the cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD) and why the bee population is declining.
One person, known as "DK," posted a comment on the PBS NewsHour site that maybe chlorine has something to do with it.
"Every morning, when I sweep (skim) the family pool here in Sherman Oaks (Los Angeles), Calif., at least 3-4 bees from a hive in a nearby hedge are dead in the water, and I don't think it's from drowning," DK wrote. "It's like the La Brea Tar Pits were eons ago: The sparkling pool looks like potable water, but it just lures them to their deaths...When I "googled" this subject, it turned out a farmer in the San Joaquin valley who was experiencing colony collapse discovered that a neighboring farmer was using a chlorine based pesticide in his irrigation water on the adjacent watermelon patch; when I read further into it, the article said chlorine was a suspected 'neuro-toxin" for the bees, and that corresponds with my empirical observations. The chemical component also might explain why only 25% of bee colonies are experiencing this problem."
"So, scientists in northern California and elsewhere, that's your clue: CHLORINE (and its derivatives). It's worth a look."
Mussen, a noted expert on honey bees, responded:
"I read with interest your concern about a possible connection between chlorine and our honey bee problems. I believe that you are correct that honey bees actually prefer a bit salty water to pure water, so they might be attracted to your swimming pool water. However, honey bees do not like to get their feet wet when collecting water, if they can help it. They stand on the dry and drink from the film of water caused by capillarity. If you find one drinking water near your pool, on the poll apron, pool wall or a floating toy, check their behavior.
"The bees you find in the pool probably were not there for drinking purposes. You noted that you have a colony living nearby. Each day that colony raises about 1,000 newly emerging adult workers and around six weeks later those 1,000 bees will die of old age. They do not die in the hive. They tend to keep foraging until they flutter to the ground (lawn, driveway, sidewalk, pool, etc.) wherever they may be. Those bees are not yet dead, so for a little while they still can sting if bumped against or stepped on. That is most likely why they keep ending up in your pool.
"In reference to your statement about chlorine in pesticides harming a beekeeper's bees, there have been a succession of pesticides with chlorine incorporated into their structures that are toxic to bees. The group named organochlorides are pretty much obsolete, but a new group of chemicals, called neonicotinoids, have a chlorine in them. Beekeepers fear those compounds because they become systemic in the plants and are found in the nectar and pollen when the plants bloom. Recently, the systemics have been delivered in irrigation water, since they can be picked up from the soil by the plant roots. In 'chemigation' with underground emitters, you would think that the chemicals would stay away from the bees. But, the systems leak and the bees will forage at the junctions in the pipes and from puddles on the ground. So, the bees get the chemical at field delivery concentrations, not at the much reduced concentrations that end up in the blossoms."
Speaking of water, as any beekeeper will tell you, bees don't like to get their feet wet. Honey bees don't dive into a pool on a hot summer day. They don't head for the sprinklers for a quick shower. They don't stand in water. When they collect water to cool their hives, they stand on the very edge of a water-filled container, such as a birdbath or the lip of a flower pot.
Which reminds us: a recently published children's book (for ages 4 to 10) about honey bees seemed to have it all: colorful illustrations, catchy lines, and educational information about bees.
One look at an illustration, though, and it's apparent that neither the author nor the illustrator know that much about water and honey bees. The illustration clearly shows honey bees walking in water. Three of them. Three of them happily walking in a water-filled birdbath.
"What's wrong with this illustration?" I quizzed a veteran beekeeper. He looked at me as if I'd just asked him the second letter of the alphabet.
"Bees," he said, "don't like to get their feet wet. Those bees in that illustration are walking in water. They don't do that."
No, they don't.