Honey bees and daisies are made for each other.
The white petals and the golden centers seem incomplete without the presence of buzzing bees.
Today we watched a pollen-packin' honey bee, with a pollen load the color of autumn pumpkins, work a daisy.
No matter that it was Friday the 13, supposedly an unlucky day. It was a lucky day for her as she foraged on the daisy and collected pollen her colony. The pollen will provide not only protein, but minerals and vitamins for the developing larvae.
Honey bee expert Norman Gary, emeritus professor of apiculture at the University of California, Davis and the author of Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees, says that during an entire year, "a typical bee colony gathers and consumes 77 pounds of pollen."
That's a lot of pollen! This little bee (below) did her part.
Ever seen a wax builder?
A "real" wax builder?
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and beekeeper-research associate Elizabeth Frost of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, showed us a wax builder last week.
No, two wax builders. Wax-building honey bees.
"The wax reminds me of fish scales," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "I know it has nothing to do with fish scales, but it reminds me of them."
In his excellent book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees, retired UC Davis professor/apiculturist Norman Gary sheds light on wax.
"When workers are about twelve days old, their wax glands begin to secrete tiny flakes of beeswax," wrote Gary, who is also an internationally known bee wrangler. "They chew the wax and fashion it into the architecturally complex honeycomb that functions as a vertical 'floor' where almost all activities inside the hive take place. Newly constructed combs are light yellow in color and are one of nature's most artistic creations."
"As combs age," Gary pointed out, "they become dark brown, owing to the accumulation of pigments from pollen as well as residual cocoons..."
So, there you have it--the making of beeswax.
Makes us wonder who coined the term, "Mind your own beeswax," doesn't it?
Beekeeping comes naturally for Brian Fishback of Wilton, a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association and a volunteer at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
“From the first moment I opened a hive and held a full frame of brood covered with bees, I was in utopia,” he said. “Everything came together. In my hand, I held the essence of core family values.”
That was in 2008.
Now he shares his knowledge with beekeepers-to-be, beginning beekeepers and veteran beekeepers, and gives presentations at schools and public events.
One of his next projects is teaching a class on “Introduction to Beekeeping” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 14 at the Soil Born Farms’ American River at 2140 Chase Drive, Rancho Cordova. Pre-registration is under way at (916) 868-6399 ($35 for Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op owners and $45 for others).
Fishback will introduce the class to the basics of beekeeping, life in the honey bee colony, equipment and tools, swarming, pests and diseases “and what it takes to get started.” He will offer both classroom and field instruction and provide an “Introduction to Beekeeping booklet.”
Back in 2008, he and his wife Darla purchased a ranch in Wilton, renamed the BD Ranch and Apiary (www.beesarelife.com), to pursue a self-sustaining life. “I catapulted into this way of life, knowing that honey bees would provide us with pollination as well as a natural sweetener,” Fishback recalled.
Like a nurse bee tending brood, he dived into the project head first—joining the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association, reading books, and talking to beekeepers.
He acknowledges that his first year of keeping bees was a rough one. “I had 40 percent losses due to colony collapse disorder (CCD),” Fishback said. “I was determined to research more into the contributing factors of CCD and how I could raise bees successfully without having to use harsh chemicals to treat them.
“My quest as well as my passion with honey bees led me to become the president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association and become a member of the California State Beekeepers’ Association. This allowed me to delve deeper into working with others at all levels of beekeeping and research.”
Fishback has helped out at events such as the California Agriculture Day at the state capitol and at state and county fairs. His interest in research led him to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty and other UC Davis bee specialists.
In the fall of 2010, his began volunteering at the Laidlaw facility, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
“It’s a privilege,” he said, to work with bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and beekeeper/research associate Elizabeth Frost at the Laidlaw facility “and still have time to share my knowledge in community outreach efforts.” This year he assisted Cobey with her queen rearing classes and instrumental insemination classes, and also with her field trips to commercial queen-bee breeders.
Fishback continues his outreach programs “to encourage interest in honey bees and to share the importance of the honey bee to our environment and our food supply.” When he gives his presentations in schools, he brings along a bee observation hive, where the youths can single out the queen bee, workers and drones.
“I allow anyone or any group with an interest agriculture, small-scale farming and of course, beekeeping, to take a day tour of my ranch, get in a bee suit and feel joy that life has to offer,” Fishback said.
If you've ever been shoulder to shoulder with a redshouldered stink bug--or nose to antennae--you know this is a bug to boot out of your garden.
It's a pest. Behind that shield-shaped body is a pest.
A redshouldered stink bug (Thyanta accerra) roved around our garden this morning, apparently looking for something to eat. Guard the tomatoes! Defend the plums! Hold onto the nectarines! Shelter the squash!
The stink bug feeds on developing fruits and vegetables, piercing the skin with its mouthparts, sucking the juice, and leaving the door open for undesirable microorganisms.
Why are they called stink bugs? Because when disturbed or crushed, they release an unpleasant odor.
About this time of year, you're supposed to look under leaves for the telltale rows of eggs--which, if allowed to mature--will become stink bugs. Pest control advisers tell us to toss the immature and mature stink bugs into a pail of soapy water.
I must admit, though, that the redshouldered stink bug is a work of art, especially when the morning sun sets the red antennae aglow.
This one didn't enter the soapy water.
Mother's Day, insect-style, dawned like any other day. In our back yard, golden honey bees foraged in the lavender and those ever-so-tiny sweat bees visited the rock purslane.
The honey bees? Those gorgeous Italians.
The sweat bees? Genus Lasioglossum, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. He figures the female sweat bee (below) may be L. mellipes, which is brownish toward the tips of the hind legs.
A trip to Benicia yielded a photo of a ladybug chasing aphids. It was almost comical. A fat aphid appeared to be playing "King of the Hill" while other aphids sucked contentedly on plant juices, unaware of pending predators.
While the aphids wreaked havoc on a very stressed Escallonia (fast-growing hedge in the family Escalloniaceae), the ladybugs, aka lady beetles, wreaked havoc on some very stressed aphids.
After all, "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts."