To commemorate National Honey Bee Day, Jefferson Exchange host Geoffrey Riley of Jefferson Public Radio, Southern Oregon University, recently booked a trio of experts to talk about honey bees.
The broadcast, aired Aug. 15, included an interview of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
If you want to gain an overall perspective of what's going on in the bee industry, then you need to listen to the broadcast.
In the interview, Mussen relates:
- The United States presently has some 2.5 million colonies of honey bees, kept mostly by commercial beekeepers
- One third of our daily diet is pollinated by honey bees
- California has one-fifth of the nation's bees, "but most of the apiculturists who do bee studies--they're east of the Rockies"
- The difference between the term "hive" and "colony" is this: A hive is the container where bees live--it could be a hollow tree, a barbecue grill, or in an apiary. A "colony" is comprised of live bees and the brood, including the eggs, larva and pupa.
- Right after World War II, the number of bee colonies in the United States totaled about 5 million. Today, the number of colonies "is half that." One of the reasons is the decreasing number of small farms, traditionally known to keep hives. Another reason: the introduction of the tracheal mite and the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) into the United States in the 1980s.
Between parasites, diseases, malnutrition, stress and pesticides, "The bees are just having a horrible time getting their act together and surviving through all that," Mussen told Riley.
The mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD), characterized by adult bees abandoning their hive, leaving behind the queen, the brood and the food stores, is also puzzling, Mussen said. He attributed CCD to multiple factors, but one thing is for sure: "Something is hurting the immune system."
As for pesticides, "the bees are swimming in a sea of chemicals," Mussen declared.
Following the interview, a listener emailed Mussen: "I heard you on the Jefferson Exchange the other day. I have studied honey bees for a long time, and you have the most comprehensive grasp of their biology, behavior, health--and their economic and historical relationship to people--that I have seen."
That is the ultimate compliment.
Mussen, a noted authority on honey bees, joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1976. He plans to retire in 2014, and already the bee industry is moaning the loss of his expertise.
If you want to learn more about honey bees and other pollinators, then “The Bounty of Pollination: More Than Just Honey” is the place to “bee” on Saturday, Oct 27 at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (RMI), University of California, Davis.
This will be the "debut event" of the Honey and Pollination Center of RMI, according to event coordinator Tracy Dickinson.
The public event, to take place from 1 to 5:30 p.m. in RMI's Silverado Vineyards Sensory Theater, is billed as “an afternoon of lively discusssions, unique tastings and interesting displays on the science behind honey and the important (and surprising) non-honey bee pollinators."
RMI is in the process of lining up speakers and displays.
Registration opens in August. The cost per ticket is $60, with discount prices offered for UC faculty, staff and students. The last day to register online is Friday, Oct. 26.
UC faculty staff and students may obtain a coupon code for discounted tickets through email@example.com. Or, if folks want to become a Friend of the RMI, they need to contact Kim Bannister at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever heard the sound of katydids?
The meadow katydids, the true katydids, the round-headed katydids, the bush katydids and the shiedback katydids?
They're all there, in all their glory.
Entomologist/educator/author/lecturer/photographer/broadcaster Art Evans of Richmond, Va., today posted a link to "Songs of Insects" on his Facebook page with these words: "The evenings and mornings are filled with the songs of crickets, kaytdids and cicadas."
The web page showcases a CD that's the work of Lang Elliott and Wil Hershberger.
Evans say this is "a great way to start identifying these songs of the season."
Indeed, it is.
And his Facebook fans agreed.
Wrote one: "I have a friend who fell in love with tree crickets after hearing a male sing on her balcony...fast forward a few years and she's a tree cricket expert who co-described a new species! As little a thing as an insect's song can change lives...."
Added several others:
- "Art--For this reason I love living in the higher rainfall portions of this latitude (nearly the same as Richmond's). The frosts of fall are sad, though--the sudden nocturnal silence."
- "A genuine gift for those of us in Seattle, which is definitely singing insect-deprived!"
- "So now I'll never get to sleep. I'll be trying to identify all those songs that used to lull me into dreamland. Thanks anyway, Art."
Katydids, found throughout most of the world, belong to the family, Tettigoniidae and order Orthoptera.
Among the sounds you'll hear:
Gladiator - Orchelimum gladiator
Sword-bearing - Neonconcephalus ensiger
Least - Atlanticus monticola
If you're not partial to katydids, not to worry. The web page also includes the sounds of assorted crickets and cicadas./span>
The next time you see a spider eating a bee snared in its web, look closely.
The spider may not be alone. It may have a dinner companion.
A freeloader fly.
The common name, "freeloader fly," refers to the Milichiidae family. These flies are very tiny, about 1 to 3 mm in length, so you may not notice them.
We took these photos with a 105mm macro lens last Friday at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre pollinator garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
These flies, identified by senior insect biosystematist Martin Hauser of the Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture, are curious little critters. Note the large heads and the red eyes ("the eyes of Milichiidae are often red, though this need not be obvious because many species of the flies are small and dusky," according to Wikipedia.)
Bees are everywhere in the garden and so are the orbweavers--on the zinnias, cosmos, roses and the Mexican sunflowers.
Predator catches prey, and here come the freeloader flies. There is such a thing as a free lunch.
Sharing a meal with a hungry spider, however, may have dire consequences for the freeloaders. They may become a side dish to the spider's main course.
Are you ready for the Great Bee Count?
It's happening Saturday, Aug. 11.
You're encouraged to be a "citizen scientist" and count the bees in your backyard or garden over a 15-minute period and to watch or listen to a national online video broadcast at http://www.yourgardenshow.com/bees between 8 and 10 a.m., Pacific Time. (Those are Pacific times; consult the website for the schedule in other time zones.)
Brady, a cultural entomologist and journalist from Davis, describes the event as a special “BEE” broadcast (Bee curious, Bee aware and Bee a good neighbor).
The Great Bee Count also will feature Brady’s footage of the UC Davis Department of Entomology's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road.
The online video broadcast also will include a question-and-answer session moderated by Ian Cook.
What's it all about? The program is about creating a discussion and activity forum for new or experienced beekeepers, and “all of us who would like to learn more about bees and bee conservation, pollinators and backyard citizen science,” according to the YourGardenShow website.
The schedule (Pacific Time), subject to change:
8 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Emmet Brady, host, interview with Gretchen Le Buhn, San Francisco State University (from the first-ever Bee-a-Thon)
Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Robbin Thorp, native pollinator specialist and emeritus professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Neal Williams, pollinator ecologist and assistant professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Gretchen LeBuhn / Great Sunflower Project
Eric Mader – Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Kim Flottum – Editor of Bee Culture journal
Jennifer Berry - Apiculture specialist at the University of Georgia.
9 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Gretchen LeBuhn / Fred Bove Great Sunflower Project
Kim Flottum – Editor of Bee Culture journal
Jim Fisher – NYC BeeKeepers
Neal Williams, UC Davis Entomology
Robbin Thorp, UC Davis Entomology
Eric Mussen, Extension Apiculturist, UC Davis Department of Entomology
9:30 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Jennifer Berry - Apiculture Specialist at the University of Georgia
Arnold Van Vliet - Biologist at Wageningen University, Netherlands
Stephen Buchmann - North American Pollinator Protection Campaign
Gretchen Le Buhn, San Francisco State University (from the first-ever Bee-a-Thon)
You may remember Brady for several reasons.
(1) Last year he hosted the first-ever Bee-A-Thon, a global online marathon dedicated to raising awareness about honey bees and other pollinators.
(2) He's an innovator in the emerging field of cultural entomology
(3) He's the creator of the popular radio program, Insect News Network (.com), now based in Davis. It airs every Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m on KDRT 95.7 FM.
A founding member of the Biomimicry Guild Speakers Bureau, Brady has lectured at seven universities across India. More locally, he co-founded the San Francisco Bay Area Green Tours. And now, he's authoring the Wikipedia entry for cultural entomology and a book entitled "Humvees and Honeybees: An Introduction to Cultural Entomology."
His passion for entomology extends to his given name, "Emmet."
It means “ant” in Gaelic.