Make way for the new beekeepers! Or "beeks," as they fondly call themselves in the apiary industry.
A short course on "Planning Ahead for Your First Hive" drew an enthusiastic group of prospective beekeepers last Saturday, Feb. 13 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
Aimed at those with little or no beekeeping experience, the all-day course included lectures and hands-on experience. The instructors--Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, Bernardo Niño, Charley Nye and Patricia "Tricia" Bohls--explained what beekeeping is all about. The lectures covered honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to start your own colony, and maladies of the hive. The participants also learned how to build a hive, how to install a package, how to inspect your hive, and how to monitor for varroa mites.
This was the first in a series of several beekeeping courses that began Feb. 13 and will conclude on March 20. All classes are filled, but folks can contact Bernardo Niño at email@example.com or call 530-380-BUZZ (2899) to be put on a list.
Meanwhile, the instructors are busily gearing up for these courses, all filled:
Working Your Colonies on Feb. 20: For novice beekeepers who already have a colony and/or have taken a previous course, and seek to develop their skills. Lectures will cover maladies and biology review, products of the hive, and troubleshooting problems in the colony. Hands-on information will encompass colony evaluations, monitoring and managing pests, feeding your colony, and honey extraction.By the end of the course, participants will be knowledgeable about evaluating colonies, solving common beekeeping problems, extracting honey and wax, trapping pollen and propolis, and treating colonies for pests, the instructors said.
Queen-Rearing Techniques: (two separate sessions) March 12-13 and March 19-20: Topics will include honey bee queen biology, basics of selective honey bee breeding programs, various queen-rearing techniques, testing hygienic behavior, and assessing varroa mite levels. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about and practice multiple methods for queen rearing. “We will go through a step-by-step process for queen rearing via grafting, including setting up cell builders and mating nucs,” Elina Niño said.
The Niño lab launched a website last year at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/, and administers a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/. In addition, Elina Niño writes a bi-monthly apiculture newsletter, free and online.
The UC Davis-trained entomologist, author of the newly published paperback book, The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives, "has been on the cutting edge of many areas of pollination biology," said Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who served as his major professor. Buchmann, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1978, is a researcher and adjunct professor in the departments of entomology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
"Steve jumps onto new ideas with great enthusiasm and explores them in depth," Thorp said. "He has been a leader in areas like buzz pollination, the contribution of electrostatics in pollen harvesting by bees, and adaptations in bees that collect oils from specialized flowers. He raised important issues about the conservation of bees in co-authoring the benchmark book, The Forgotten Pollinators, a decade before colony collapse disorder (CCD) in honey bees captured the attention of the media and general public."
Thorp and Buchmann are among the instructors at The Bee Course, which attracts conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other attendees from all over the world. It's affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History.
So last year when Simon & Schuster published Buchmann's latest book, Reason for Flowers, it drew quite a splash. Bee scientists and bee enthusiasts, teachers and students, and lovers of flowers and just plain lovers, grabbed copies of the book, which, as of Feb. 9, is now in paperback. National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed him.
One word immediately grabbed everyone's attention: "sex."
"The reason for flowers is actually one word: sex," Buchmann told NPR's Arun Rath. "So, flowers are literally living scented billboards that are advertising for sexual favors, whether those are from bees, flies, beetles, butterflies or us, because quite frankly most of the flowers in the world have gotten us to do their bidding. But that's only the first stage because flowers, if they're lucky, turn into fruits, and those fruits and seeds feed the world."
A scientist who seemingly never sleeps, Buchmann has published more than 150 scientific articles and 11 popular nonfiction books, including The Forgotten Pollinators (a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist) with Gary Nabhan. His book, Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive, is a National Science Teachers' Association Outstanding Science Trade Book. He's also written a children's book The Bee Tree (with Diana Cohn), described as the true story of a family of honey hunters in peninsular Malaysia.
So, we asked Buchmann to provide "10 reasons for flowers." He provides greater detail in his book, but here are 10 reasons:
- Flowers Feed The World. Because pollinated and fertilized blossoms turn into nutritious fruits and seeds, these invaluable foodstuffs keep the world's 7.2 billion people from starvation. These resulting fruits also feed birds, bears and other wildlife.
- Tasty and Nutritious. Although the calories from starchy cereals and grain crops feed the world, we enjoy and need the “nutraceuticals” and antioxidants inside colorful cranberries, blueberries, oranges and apples. They keep us healthy and happy.
- Edible flowers. Some flowers (e.g. roses, some marigolds) are great as edible garnish and foods. Find out which ones can be eaten and what they taste like.
- Humans might never have evolved, or survived. Early hominids certainly recognized that flowers were the harbingers of tasty fruits. Without flowers, perhaps no people today.
- Flowers make us smile. Give someone a flower(s) and they flash a genuine Duchenne smile. Rutgers psychologist Dr. Jeanette Haviland-Jones has infused subliminal amounts of rose and gardenia vs. manmade scents into room air. Subjects use more enjoyment words and were more likely to approach or touch a stranger when the floral scents were present. Flowers may counteract the semiochemicals for fear, anger and anxiety that humans seem to constantly be emitting.
- 200 million red roses! Americans buy about 10 million cut blooms every day. On Valentine's Day that can jump to 200 million cut flowers, especially red roses. Most of these flowers are grown in Columbia and Ecuador then arrive in the bellies of jumbo jets arriving at the Miami airport.
- As costly as gold. Saffron is the world's costliest spice and the subject of countless fake imitations. The spice is the dried styles from crocus blooms. Hand-picking and the fact that this represents such a tiny fraction of the entire plant, make it so costly and precious.
- For inspiration and romance. Flowers have inspired generations of poets, writers and artists. Their myriad shapes, colors and scents enrich our lives with beauty. Their sexuality and alluring scents bring romance into our lives.
- Most ancient. The world's earliest known flower is the 8-inch tall fossil Achaefructus that grew in China 130-160 million years ago. Turns out that these and other early blooms were puny runts. They wouldn't win best of show ribbons in any flower show.
- Flowers in the service of science. Without Gregor Mendel's crossing experiments with the humble garden pea, we wouldn't have learned about the laws of inheritance when we did.
So, flowers feed the world, keep us healthy and make us smile. What could be better than that?
Disheveled and depressed. Desolate and defeated. Weary and worn.
Is that really Bruce Hammock, the distinguished professor who holds a joint appointment in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center?
He and his wife, Lassie, portray cameo roles as drought-ravaged farmers in the newly released indie, The Last Survivors, directed by their son, Tom Hammock. Starring Jon Gries, Haley Lu Richardson and Booboo Stewart, The Last Survivors has been described as a low-budget cross between Mad Max and The Hunger Games. (See trailer on YouTube)
And where are Bruce and Lassie Hammock in the film? They're in the grave-digging scene. They're standing at the back, Bruce comforting his wife as they mourn the death of a fellow farmer and worry about their future.
The official synopsis: "At the edge of an expansive barren valley, all that remains of The Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth is a few hollowed-out husks of buildings. Seventeen- year-old Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) can barely recall when the Oregon valley was still lush. It's been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away. Kendal and the few others that remain barely scrape by while dreaming of escape. When a greedy water baron lays claim to what little of the precious resource remains underground, Kendal must decide whether to run and hide or bravely fight for the few cherished people and things she has left. Co-starring Booboo Stewart (The Twilight Saga), Max Charles (The Amazing Spider-Man, Mr. Peabody & Sherman) and genre veteran Barbara Crampton (You're Next, Re-Animator), The Last Survivors is a suspenseful look at a futuristic world where only the most resourceful survive.."
For The Last Survivors, Director Tom Hammock asked both his parents and brother Bruce to serve in cameo roles. The younger Bruce, a postdoctoral researcher working on insect ecology in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, plays a "bad guy on a water truck."
Professor Bruce Hammock is better known in academic and administrative circles as the director of the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory. He just recently formed the company, EicOsis LLC, to target neuropathic and inflammatory pain and received a $4 million federal grant to advance his compound discovery through Phase 1 clinical trials. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and the recipient of the 2001 UC Davis Faculty Research Lecture Award and the 2008 Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching. He's also an athlete who engages in white-water rafting and hiking.
Here at UC Davis, we call Bruce Hammock "The Genius." That's because he is. And now, he's an actor.
For the December 2013 shoot in the Mojave Desert (meant to depict a drought apocalypse in Oregon), the professor grew a beard, donned his father's old ragged World War II clothes and worn-out shoes, and practiced looking forlorn and haggard.
How would he describe his future in acting? "Brief and undistinguished," he joked, adding
The Last Survivors, initially named The Well, is getting a lot of play. It's now on Showtime, Netflix and Amazon.
The crew worked hard, Bruce Hammock recalled. “We were on the set at 5:30 a.m. We worked until dark, in weather well below freezing, with high winds blowing sand. The professional actors and actresses put in amazing performances under quite adverse conditions. They're a very professional and fun group. I had never realized the complexity of filming a movie. I hope they pull off their vision.”
Son Tom Hammock initially thought of becoming a biologist. A 1994 graduate of Davis High School, he studied biology at UC Berkeley, and then switched to landscape architecture. After receiving his bachelor's degree in landscape architecture, he headed off to the American Film Institute to study film design. His credits including serving as the production designer for the critically acclaimed horror films, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and You're Next, and working on such film productions as Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He is now very much involved in the hugely popular young adult and horror film genre, but showed more of his talent when he authored the original graphic novel, “An Aurora Grimeon Story—Will O' the Wisp." (See previous Bug Squad blog)
Warning: Before you sit down to watch The Last Survivors, be sure to have a bottle of water at the ready, and a jar of canned peaches, too. You will be craving both.
Last Survivors on Facebook
When you see honey bees foraging on the early blooming oxalis, that's a sure sign that February is approaching.
And that means it's time for some mead, music and a bee-influenced dinner.
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is hosting its third annual fundraiser, The Feast: A Celebration of Mead and Honey, from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6 in the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science. Reservations are now underway. (See registration page.)
Mead, says Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, is "the world's oldest fermented beverage."
What's mead? "It's a fermented blend of honey, water and often fruits, yeast, or spices that dates back to about 7000 BCE," Harris says. Ceramic shards found in Jiahu, Henan Province, China held a mead-like residue, according to Patrick McGovern, the leading authority on ancient alcoholic beverages. According to the BBC the number of meaderies in the United States has increased from 30 to 40 to more than 250 in the last 10 years.
The event, to take place in the Mondavi Institute's Sensory Building on Old Davis Road, will begin at 6 with cocktails, live music, hors d'oeuvres and the featured ginger mead from Schramms Mead in Michigan. Select wines, honey lemonade and sparkling mead also will be served.
Ann Evans, author of the Davis Farmer's Cookbook, and Kathi Riley, caterer and former chef at Zuni Cafe, San Francisco, will serve a Mediterranean-style dinner.
Harris says the menu will include a triple avocado salad, followed by "a tagine of chicken, vegetables and couscous served family-style. A light cheese course will accompany a dessert mead flight with a wonderful citrus almond torte closing the festive evening."
Proceeds from the dinner will be used to support the outreach and education programs of the Honey and Pollination Center. Its mission is “to make UC Davis a leading authority on bee health, pollination and honey quality," Harris says.
Tickets for the dinner are $125 and are available online at http://honey.ucdavis.edu/. For more information contact Amina Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a bee. One little bee.
What are the odds of a honey bee landing on the window of a UC Davis vehicle parked outside the California Bee Breeders' Association meeting on a cool January day--Wednesday, Jan. 20--at the Ord Bend Community Center, Glenn County?
Inside, it was a gathering of bee breeders talking about industry issues. Outside, it was a gathering of clouds, as the sun struggled to cast shadows where it could. The clouds would darken tomorrow, but it would not rain today.
There were no pollinators in sight.
Except for this one little bee, which landed on the windshield. Was it looking for those scarce floral resources? Or soaking in the warmth of the sun? Or waiting to be photographed?
Surely it will be involved in the almond pollination season which begins around Feb. 14.
"There are now 890,000 bearing acres of almonds!" bee breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Jackie Park-Burris Queens, Palo Cedro, and a past chairman of the California Sate Apiary Board, told us last week. "They're needing approximately 1,780,000 hives! That is probably close to 85 percent of the commercial hives in the U.S. It is definitely 100 percent of the quality commercial hives in the United States."
"Beekeepers are very thankful for the job," she added. "The pollen from the almonds is one of the healthiest pollens my bees get all year, they love it!The largest pollinating event in the world happens in California during the almond bloom. It is a $5.8 billion crop for growers and the economy of California."
And it all starts with the bees. One. Little. Bee.