It's a sure sign of spring when the Japanese apricot tree north of Wickson Hall at the University of California, Davis, blooms.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, noticed it flowering on Jan. 21. "First fruit tree of 2013 blooming!" he said.
This tree, Prunus mume Dawn, is quite special. It was planted on March 7, 1963 to honor the work of internationally known pomologist Warren Porter Tufts (1890-1968), emeritus professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Pomology. Tufts served UC Davis pomology from 1915 to 1958. Then he came out of retirement to chair the Department of Landscape Management for two years.
He died April 18, 1968. His biographers pointed out that he "played an important role in the development of the principles of pruning and training fruit trees, which became known as the UC method."
Just one of his many contributions...
As for the Japanese apricot tree, it's one of spring's early bloomers. Its ruffled double pink blossoms are quite fragrant, a fact not missed by the honey bees.
Today the honey bees were foraging all over the blossoms. Against a stunningly blue sky, they targeted the delicate pink blossoms and pressed against the thick reddish buds that will unfold soon.
Just as the bees did every spring when Tufts worked his apricot orchard in nearby Winters...
"Stop and smell the roses."
How many times have you heard that? It's usually from someone urging us to slow down, to savor life, and to pay attention to the pleasures.
Like fragrant roses.
Honey bees seem to be particularly fond of the butterfly rose, also known as the China rose (Rosa mutabilis), a deciduous shrub that can grow up to six feet high and spread five feet across. It's a long flowering plant, especially important to bees when they emerge from their hives after a long cold winter and begin to forage for food.
The butterfly rose, so named because its blossoms resemble butterflies, is cherished for its ever-changing flowers, which turn from yellowish/orange to pinkish/red to a coppery red.
Stop and smell the roses? Yes, but also look for the beauty in the bees.
(These photos were taken at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden and demonstration garden on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. The garden, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is open to the public from dawn to dusk for free, self-guided tours. Plans call for guided tours, for a nominal charge, starting March 1. Contact Christine Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thinking about that battle in New Orleans? Getting ready to settle in for the Harbowl? Wondering who's going to win the Vince Lombardi trophy?
How about heading over to the University of California, Davis, campus for "Super Science Saturday"?
UC Davis will celebrate its second annual “Biodiversity Museum Day” from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 when six museums or centers that engage in education and research involving insects, vertebrates, fossils, or plants will host open houses.
They are the Bohart Museum of Entomology, the Botanical Conservatory, Center for Plant Diversity, the Geology Museum, the Anthropology Museum, and the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology.
The event, free and open to the public, will showcase UC Davis’ impressive research collections and museums. Free? Yes. And parking is free, too.
On Biodiversity Museum Day, visitors can go behind-the-scenes to learn how scientists conduct research. They can chat with the scientists about their projects, check out the displays, and participate in fun activities and crafts. Lots of families and people of all ages are expected to attend.
The first-ever Biodiversity Day originated last year when Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum and Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology approached Ernesto Sandoval of the Botanical Conservatory and asked about the possibility of weekend hours. He agreed. Then two other centers committed: UC Davis Botanical Conservatory and the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity.
This year we have six participating!
All six are located on the main UC Davis campus, and are close enough to be within walking distance. Maps, signs and guides will be available at each site. (Download map of six sites.)
Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 of Academic Surge, Crocker Lane (formerly California Drive)
Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, 1394 Academic Surge, Crocker Lane
UC Davis Botanical Conservatory, Kleiber Hall Drive
Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive, near Briggs Hall
Anthropology Collections, Young Hall, off A Street
Geology Collections, Earth and Physical Sciences Building, across from Academic Surge Building
But such was the case Monday, Jan. 21 for butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
See, Shapiro sponsors the annual "Beer for a Butterfly" contest to see who can collect the first white cabbage butterfly of the year in the three-county area of Yolo, Solano and Sacramento. A noted butterfly expert, he's been monitoring the butterflies of Central California for more than three decades and maintains a website, Art's Butterfly World.
Shapiro has sponsored the "Beer or a Butterfly" contest since 1972 to draw attention to the first flight of the butterfly. He awards the winner--usually himself!--a pitcher of beer or its equivalent.
This year he netted the first white cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae) on President Barack Obama's Inauguration Day, Monday, Jan. 21. Perhaps coincidentally, he also caught the first white cabbage fly of 2009 on President Obama's first Inauguration Day--Jan. 20.
“The constitution mandates the swearing-in for Jan. 20, though it does not require Pieris rapae to emerge on that date,” Shapiro quipped.
“Thank you, Mr. President!”
For the record, Shapiro caught the 2013 winner near railroad tracks in West Sacramento, Yolo County, and the 2009 winner near railroad tracks in Davis, also in Yolo County. (Shapiro’s first catch of 2013 was actually on Jan. 1 at the same West Sacramento site, but “it was a slopover from the fall brood.” Thus, he declared the contest still under way.)
Now the contest is over and Shapiro says that since “Pieris rapae is out, I can ‘stand down.’ It’s now officially spring.”
He declared it spring, and so it is.
Now, the big question: Will Professor Shapiro share his beer with the President?
“I'd be delighted to buy Obama a beer," Shapiro said, "but I suspect he has better things to do with his time!”
These are terrible blood-sucking parasites that attack bees and raise havoc in the hive. They transmit a variety of diseases and can destroy a hive.
In one of his many talks last year, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology pointed out that honey bee mites include the (internal) tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi), first detected in the United States in 1984, and the (external) Varroa, first discovered here in 1987.
"The tracheal mite killed half of the nation's bees in five years as it expanded across the country," he said. "It was mostly ignored in the last few years."
Then when the Varroa mite arrived, "it killed half of the remaining colonies in five years as it expanded across the country. It killed practically all feral colonies in 1995-96."
"Mite feeding lowers pupal blood protein, resulting in underweight bees, and it shortens the lifespan," Mussen said. "Mite feeding suppresses the honey bee immune system. And, mite feeding vectors RNA virus diseases of honey bees."
Varroa mites, bee scientists agree, are definitely a key factor in the mysterious malady known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). They think CCD is caused not by "a single bullet" but by a multitude of factors, including diseases, pesticides, pests, parasites, malnutrition and stress.
Mussen defines CCD as "the failure of colonies to survive to the next season," and "there's an overwhelming quantity and quality of honey bee stresses."
With CCD, the adult bees abandon the hive, leaving behind the queen, brood and food stores.
So sad. Empty-hive stories, such as this one we heard today from a Davis beekeeper are troubling: "I went to check on my bees yesterday and found the hive empty. The wood was a little mildewy, I think they absconded because hive design needs work. I saw a couple dead yellowjackets in the hive, too, but I don't know if they attacked when there were still bees there or not."
Says Mussen: "Honey bees are stressed by many things. It begins with less naturally occurring food plants. The plants lack the mixed pollens essential for honey bee nutrition."
"It continues with loss of blood and lifespan, as well as infectious inoculations, from Varroa mite parasitism; infections by exotic microbes, especially Nosema ceranae and RNA iruses; and exposure to toxic or 'made toxic' (by adjuvants) chemical residues."
"Is it any wonder that our honey bee colonies are having a hard time surviving?" Mussen asks.
You can catch up on what's troubling the bees and the scientific research under way by reading his bimonthly newsletter, from the UC apiaries, posted on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.