If you're gearing up for the Fourth of July weekend, you'll probably head to the farmers' market, a roadside stand, or the produce department of your favorite grocery store for some freshly picked strawberries.
And you can thank a honey bee if your berry is fully formed. If it looks deformed "or not quite filled out," possibly "the seeds on that side didn't get pollinated," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Among the fruits and vegetables that require bee pollination are almonds, (seeded) citrus, plums, cherries, apples, kiwi. melons, squash, pumpkin, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and vegetable seeds such as onion seeds.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly demonstration garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, showcases a number of plants that require bee pollination, including almonds, apples, plums, blueberries, onions and squash. The garden, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, is open to the public, year around, from dawn to dusk.
The goal of the bee haven is to provide a year-around food source for the bees at the Laidlaw facility, to raise public awareness on the plight of the honey bee, and to show visitors what they can plant in their own gardens to attract bees. And, it's a research garden. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, is monitoring the dozens of different species of bees visiting the garden.
The strawberry patch is tiny--after all, this is a demonstration garden--but the berries are big. Staff and volunteers keep the garden weeded and occasionally, harvest a few strawberries.
The verdict: Berry, berry fine!
Have you hugged your favorite pollinator today?
It's National Pollinator Week, and you're allowed to do that this week. Actually, any time you feel the inclination.
Honey bees, bumble bees, wool carder bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees--they're all out there, ready for a hug.
'Course, they may misinterpret your actions.
This is the fifth annual Pollinator Week, when we pay tribute to bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles--and flies, too. Don't forget the flies. And all the other pollinators out there.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging us to celebrate pollinators June 20-26. Perhaps what we should do, along with celebrating them, is vow to save them.
To attract honey bees to your garden, it's a good idea to let the artichokes flower.
Sure, you could pick them for your dinner, but you'd be depriving honey bees of theirs.
At the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis, the artichokes are beginning to flower. The haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden, is a demonstration garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.
It's open from dawn to dusk (no admission fee). The key goals of the garden are to provide bees with a year-around food source, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own. It also serves as a research garden.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven is a treasure, and fulfilling the needs of bees adds to that treasure.
Honey bees in the pink?
If you plant rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora), a perennial succulent, be prepared for a posse of honey bees.
Our rock purslane is drawing so many bees that you'd never know there's a declining bee population and that there's a new sheriff (colony collapse disorder) in town.
They buzz, two or three at a time, toward a single blossom, and lug huge red pollen loads back to their hives.
We're glad to see there's so much interest in bees. A documentary making the rounds now is Queen of the Sun, an advocacy film probably playing in a theater near you. It's playing in Davis June 17 through June 23 at the Varsity Theater, downtown Davis. We saw it at a personal showing at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis a few weeks ago. The photography is stunning. Just as we prepared to watch it, one of the bee folks quipped: "This is a bee-rated movie."
For a good look at bee behavior, there's an online video titled "Bee Talker: The Secret World of Bees." Bee behaviorist Mark Winston, professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C., guides us "beyond the biology of the creatures to show us that our honey-producing neighbors have broader implications for humans and the plant.”
For another good look at bee behavior, step out into your yard. (That is, if you have bee plants in your yard.) "Won't the bees sting you?" some folks ask. No worries. These bees are foraging. They're not defending their colony.
Understanding the honey bee’s immune system is crucial to battling the declining honey bee population, says University of California insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken.
Speaking to 100 fellow researchers at the Honey Bee Genomics and Biology Conference, held recently in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York, Flenniken said that if a bee can develop better antiviral immune responses, it’s better able to fight its foes.
"Our work is focused on understanding the natural mechanisms of antiviral immunity in honey bees--or how a honey bees fights off viral infections,” she told the researchers. “We are examining these pathways at the molecular level using gene expression microarrays.”
Flenniken, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Davis and a virologist in the Raul Andino lab, Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UC San Francisco, studies honey bee viruses and the role of RNA interference (RNAi) in the antiviral immune responses. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, carries genetic information of viruses. RNAi is a mechanism that inhibits gene expression.
RNAi can be used as an antiviral strategy in honey bees, Flenniken believes. Her research involves limiting virus production in the bees by priming their RNAi machinery with viral specific double-stranded RNA.
For the past several years, she has been analyzing viruses present in the hives of area beekeepers.
The findings she reported at the conference are mentioned in the May 10th edition of the international journal, Nature. Flenniken “presented evidence that in honey bees (double-stranded RNA) can trigger a general immune response that might ward off a variety of threats,” wrote Nature author Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib.
We look forward to seeing more of Flenniken's work.