Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, who holds a dual appointment at the University of California, Davis and Washington State University (WSU), believes that "increasing the overall genetic diversity of honey bees may lead to healthier and hardier bees that can better fight off parasites, pathogens and pests." Just as stock improvement has served the poultry, dairy and swine industries well, the beekeeping industry needs access “to stocks of origin or standardized evaluation and stock improvement programs,” she says.
You can hear her discuss her research on “Importation of Honey Bee Germplasm to Increase Genetic Diversity in Domestic Breeding Stocks" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 2 in 122 Briggs Hall.
A UC Davis researcher since May 2007, Cobey is a former student of "Father of Honey Bee Genetics" Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., (1907-2003), for whom the UC Davis bee lab is named. She provided practical application to the Robert Page-Harry Laidlaw Closed Population Breeding Program (CPRP) theory in the development of the New World Carniolan line, in its 31st generation and now an industry standard.
"The many problems that currently face the U.S. honey bee population have underscored the need for sufficient genetic diversity at the colony, breeding, and population levels,” wrote Cobey and colleagues Walter “Steve” Sheppard, professor and chair of the WSU Department of Entomology and David Tarpy of North Carolina State University (formerly a graduate student at UC Davis) in a chapter of the newly published book, Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions (Contemporary Topics in Entomology).
European colonists brought a small subset of European bees to America before the U.S. Honey Bee Act of 1922 restricted further importation of Old World honey bees to prevent the introduction of the tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi. These early importations represented "a limited sampling of several subspecies," Cobey said.
“The limited foundation stock has been propagated and expanded to establish the existing U.S. beekeeping industry. In addition, the destruction of a once widespread feral population by parasitic mites and the genetic consequences of large scale queen production practices have contributed to reduce genetic diversity in U.S. honey bee populations. “
Cobey is involved in a number of scientific research projects. She and fellow scientists and beekeepers from UC Davis, WSU and the California Bee Breeders' Association are working together to develop and test protocols for the international exchange of honey bee germplasm and to incorporate imported stocks into established U.S. breeding stocks.
Cobey is also involved in a newly formed international group devoted to preserving the Carniolan honey bee. Research that she co-developed was presented in March at the first International Symposium About the Carniolan Honey Bee in Slovenia. The conference drew scientists, researchers and queen breeders interested in the conservation of Carniolan honey bees (Apis mellifera carnica) and collaboration.
Cobey is known globally for her expertise on the instrumental insemination of queen bees; her classes on queen rearing and instrumental insemination attract students from all over the world.
So it's not surprising that she's in high demand as a speaker. Cobey has lectured throughout the United States, Central and South America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, and was recently invited to Cuba for the 3rd Latin-American Beekeepers' Meeting and the 4th Cuban Beekeeping Congress.
Come November, Cobey will be a keynote speaker for the Apimondia Symposium on Honey Bee Breeding in Quebec.
If you're unable to attend the Cobey seminar at UC Davis, not to worry. It's scheduled to be videotaped and posted at a later date on UCTV.
Beekeepers sometimes see a white-eyed drone in their hives--a genetic mutation.
All drones (male) honey bees, have these spectacular wrap-around eyes that are perfect for finding a virgin queen on her maiden flight. After all, the drone's sole purpose is to mate with a queen and then die. So, every afternoon in spring and summer, weather permitting, the drones fly from their individual colonies and gather in a drone congregation area and wait for a virgin queen to fly by. The queen will mate with 12 to 25 or so drones in in mid-air, some 20 to 50 feet above the ground. The drones immediately die after mating ("they die with a smile on their face" as beekeepers say). The queen bee? She returns to her hive to lay eggs for the rest of her life. She'll lay as many as 2000 eggs a day in peak season.
Life will be different for this white-eyed drone (below), a Caucasian (dark bee) at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis. Note that this is the same race that the European colonists brought to America beginning in the 1622. If the color looks unfamiliar, that's because today the most common bee in the United States is the Italian or honey-colored bee, not the Caucasian.
But, back to the white-eyed drone. Like other drones, he will be fed by his sisters, the worker bees. No reproduction for him, though. No gathering in the drone congregation area. No waiting for a queen.
All white-eyed drones are blind.
So you're sitting in your yard having your morning coffee, and you get buzzed--not a buzz from the caffeine but a buzz by a carpenter bee.
A male carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, is guarding the salvia, fending off all other male suitors as it waits for a female to arrive. Then, seeking a quick energy fix, our subject stops to rob the nectar (when carpenter bees slit the corolla, bypassing the pollination process, it's called "robbing the nectar").
We managed to photograph this male carpenter (below) in quick succession: (1) in flight (2) stealing the nectar and (3) jumping off the flower.
Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex is the smallest of the three carpenter bee species found in California, according to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emertius professor of entomology at UC Davis. The other two species: X. varipuncta and X. californica. (See UC Davis Department of Entomology website.)
X. tatabaniformis orpifex may be the smallest, but you wouldn't know it by its buzz.
There's a good reason why they're called "the menace in the mattress." The mattress is one of their hiding spots.
They? Bed bugs. Parasites that feed on human blood.
"Bed bug infestations are rampant locally, nationally and globally," says Tanya Drlik, integrated pest management (IPM) coordinator of Contra Costa County who will speak at the May 3rd meeting of the Northern California Entomology Society, to be held in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
“We’ve had a reprieve from bed bugs for about 50 years, but now they’re back,” said Drlik, who will discuss “The Resurgence of Bed Bugs and Current Effective Control Methods” at 9:45 a.m. in the Laidlaw conference room.
The society (membership is open to everyone) will meet from 9:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Drlik is one of five speakers on topics ranging from bed bugs to lacewings to endangered species.
Drlik, who formed the Bed Bug Task Force to help prepare Contra Costa County to meet the challenges of the mounting bed bug infestation, says that bed bugs “have no regard for wealth or class—everyone is vulnerable. Bed bugs can be found all across the country in apartment buildings, hotels and motels, private residences, hospitals, waiting rooms, fire station, taxis and buses…and the list goes on. They’ve infested four-star hotels and penthouses as well as homeless shelters and rundown apartment buildings.”
“Judging by history and the experience of other jurisdictions across the country, the problem is only going to increase, and more and more public buildings and homes will experience infestations,” said Drlik, who has a master’s degree in ecosystem management and nearly 40 years of experience in the field of IPM.
“Bed bugs are difficult to control because of their small size, their secretive nature and their growing resistance to the pesticides we have at our disposal. Poverty, clutter, and poor housekeeping do not cause bed bug infestations, but they make eliminating infestations much more difficult.”
Bed bugs “can be seen in epidemic proportions in some areas of the United States, including New York City and central and southwestern Ohio,” said Drlik, adding that since 2004, New York City has experienced a 2277 percent increase in complaints about bed bugs in the five boroughs (source: New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development). “Colleagues in the Franklin County Health Department in central Ohio have commented to us that they were completely unprepared for the rapidity with which bed bugs spread throughout their county.”
Other topics at the Nor Cal Entomology Society meeting include:
- “Protecting Invertebrates Listed as Threatened or Endangered Species in California” by Darlene McGriff, California Natural Diversity Database (California Department of Fish and Game).
- “California Forest Insect Conditions Going into 2012” by Cynthia Snyder, U.S. Forest Service, Shasta-McCloud Management Unit.
- “PG&E’s Use of Safe Harbor Agreements and Programmatic Permits to Protect Endangered Organisms on Utility Rights of Way” by Peter Beesley, PG&E.
- “In-Depth Look at Lacewings, an Augmentative California Biological Control Agent” by Shaun Winterton, California Department of Food and Agriculture Biological Control Program.
All great topics, to be sure. Bed bugs, however, are the big draw, in more ways than one.
We remember an Entomological Society of America (ESA) seminar on these bloodsuckers that resulted in a flurry of inspections back in the hotel rooms: mattress, baseboard, furniture, closet and luggage checks.
For excellent bed bug resources, check out the ESA website. And for more information on the Nor Cal Entomology Society meeting, see the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
If you head over to the UC Davis Department of Entomology's displays at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology on Saturday, April 21 during the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day, you'll find them.
Bug doctors. Lots of them. They'll be there from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey will be behind a sign that says "Dr. Death" in Room 122 of Briggs Hall. (Briggs is located off Kleiber Hall Drive.) There you can ask him all kinds of questions about forensic entomology and he'll let you peer through his microscope. Ask him about CSI!
Out in front of Briggs Hall will be a "Bug Doctor" booth where you can "bug" the experts about bugs. Entomology faculty and graduate students will rotate shifts.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) will have a team of experts at Briggs, too, to answer all sorts of questions. "We will do our usual display of information and tools for managing pests in homes and gardens," said Mary Louise Flint, the UC IPM's associate director of urban and community IPM and an Extension entomologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "We'll give advice on managing pests with less toxic, environmentally sound IPM methods. We will have Quick Tips to hand out, people can try out our touch screen IPM kiosk to answer questions and we will also be distributing live lady beetles (aka ladybugs) for children."
Over at the Bohart Museum in Room 1124 of Academic Surge on California Drive, you'll meet the team of bug experts headed by director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology. You can examine the specimens (there are more than seven million housed in the museum) and they'll even let you hold the critters in their live "petting zoo" which includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks.
Yes, there will be doctors in the house, but you know what? They will be far, far outnumbered by insects. (See the UC Davis Department of Entomology website for the full list of activities.)