When you try to attract leafcutting bees (Megachile spp.) to your bee condos, you may also attract something else.
Bee condos (wood blocks drilled with holes for native bee nests) are a favorite of gardeners and bee enthusiasts. Leafcutting bees lay their eggs in them, provision them with food for the winter, and seal the holes with leaves. Then, in the spring, if all goes well, their offspring will emerge.
Well, some of them will.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, last year installed some bee condos in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.
Unlike most bee condos, though, his are removable. That is, you can take them apart and look inside.
Thorp recently did just that. On Dec. 22, he opened one of them and voila! Immature leafcutting bees sharing their bed with immature wasps. The predators and their prey. Strange bedfellows, indeed.
What species of wasp?
"The wasp is one of the solitary mason wasps (family Eumenidae) that uses caterpillars as food for their young," Thorp said. "It may be a species in genus Euodynerus. But I will need to wait until they develop to adults to be sure which genus and species it is."
If you want to attract leafcutting bees, check out Thorp's list of resources for native bee nests.
Just don't expect to rear only native bees.
Thomas Seeley has. Many times.
"Choosing the right dwelling place is a life-or-death matter for a honeybee colony," he writes in his book, Honeybee Democracy. "If a colony chooses poorly, and so occupies a nest cavity that is too small to hold the honey stores to survive winter, or that provides it with poor protection from cold winds and hungry marauders, then it will die."
Seeley, a professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University, where he teaches courses in animal behavior and does research on the functional organization of honey bee colonies, will present two lectures this week on the UC Davis campus.
Seeley will speak on “Swarm Intelligence in Honey Bees” from 4:10 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19 in 2 Wellman Hall as part of the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology’s winter seminar series. Host is Rick Grosberg, professor of evolution and ecology.
Then on Friday, Jan. 20, Seeley will speak on “The Flight Guidance Mechanisms of Honey Bee Swarms" at 12:10 p.m. in 6 Olsen Hall as part of the UC Davis Animal Behavior Group’s winter seminar series. His host will be Brian Johnson, assistant professor at the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Of his Thursday talk, Seeley says: “Swarm intelligence is the solving of a cognitive problem by two or more individuals who independently collect information and process it through social interactions. With the right organization, a group can overcome the cognitive limitations of its members and achieve a high collective IQ. To understand how to endow groups with swarm intelligence, it is useful to examine natural systems that have evolved this ability. An excellent example is a swarm of honey bees solving the life-or-death problem of finding a new home. A honey bee swarm accomplishes this through a process that includes collective fact-finding, open sharing of information, vigorous debating, and fair voting by the hundreds of bees in a swarm that function as nest-site scouts.”
Seeley said he will show “how these incredible insects have much to teach us when it comes to achieving collective wisdom and effective group decision making.”
Seeley, who grew up in Ithaca, N.Y., began keeping and studying bees while a high school student. He left Ithaca in 1970 to attend college at Dartmouth, but he returned home each summer to work for Roger A. Morse at the Dyce Laboratory for Honey Bee Studies at Cornell University. There he learned the craft of beekeeping and “began probing the inner workings of the honey bee colony. “
Thoroughly intrigued by the smooth functioning of bee colonies, Seeley went on to graduate school at Harvard University, earning his doctorate in 1978.
Seeley subsequently taught at Yale for six years, then worked his way home to Ithaca/Cornell in 1986, "where I’ve been ever since.”
In recognition of his scientific work, Seeley has received the Senior Scientist Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Seeley’s research focuses on the internal organization of honey bee colonies. His work is summarized in three books: "Honeybee Ecology" (1985, Princeton University Press), 'The Wisdom of the Hive" (1995, Harvard University Press), and "Honeybee Democracy" (2010, Princeton University Press).
It will be like "old-home week" when Anurag Agrawal returns to the University of California, Davis, tomorrow (Jan. 18) to deliver a seminar on "Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Defenses."
Agrawal, who received his doctorate at UC Davis under major professor Rick Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology, and is now a professor of ecology at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., will give the presentation from 12:10 to 1 p.m., in 122 Briggs. Host is Andrew Merwin of the Michael Parrella lab.
"In order to address coevolutionary interactions between milkweeds and their root-feeding four-eyed beetles, I will present data on reciprocity, fitness tradeoffs, specialization and the genetics of adaptation," Agrawal said. "In addition to wonderful natural history, this work sheds light on long-standing theory about how antagonistic interactions proceed in ecological and evolutionary time."
Agrawal does research on plant-insect interactions, including aspects of herbivory, community ecology, phenotypic plasticity, chemical ecology and coevolution.
His research projects have included work on local biodiversity, ecology of invasive plants, the biology of Monarch butterflies, and the evolution of plant-defense strategies.
Agrawal, a native of Allentown, Penn., completed his undergraduate work in biology and his master’s degree in conservation biology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he became intrigued with plant-animal interactions.
He then headed out to California in 1994 to study with Karban, a noted expert on plant-animal interactions.
While at UC Davis, Agrawal received the 1999 Young Investigator Award, sponsored by the American Society of Naturalists. He went on to win the National Science Foundation’s 2004 Early Career Award and the Ecological Society of America’s 2006 George Mercer Award.
After receiving his doctorate from UC Davis, Agrawal accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Amsterdam before becoming an assistant professor of botany at the University of Toronto. He joined the Cornell faculty in 2004.
Among his honors: he won the sixth David Starr Jordan Prize for his innovative research involving plant-animal interactions. The international award, given approximately every three years, comes with a $20,000 prize and a commemorative medal.
In singling him out for the honor, the awards committee described Agrawal as “one of the foremost authorizes on the community and evolutionary ecology of species interactions.”
And tomorrow, Anurag Agrawal will be back on his "home turf" to talk about those interactions.
There's a waiting list for Susan Cobey's specialized bee classes at the University of California,Davis.
That says a lot about the demand for bee stock improvement and for Cobey's teachings.
Cobey, bee breeder-geneticist at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis and at Washington State University, draws researchers and beekeepers from all over the world to her workshops.
Her March and April classes on queen bee rearing and instrument insemination--advanced classes that promote stock improvement--are all filled, but the good news is that she's offering more classes in Washington state in June.
So, folks can get on the waiting list for the UC Davis spring classes and/or register for the Washington state summer classes.
Cobey is highly sought as a speaker. Her latest presentation--Jan. 7--was at the 43rd annual American Honey Producers’ Association Convention in Phoenix where she discussed “The Introduction of Honey Bee Germplasm and Re-Establishment of Apis Mellifera Caucasica.”
Last November, Cobey addressed the California State Beekeeping Association at its conference in Rohnert Park. Her topic, "How to Raise Queens." Last September she delivered the keynote address at the beekeeping symposium on Production of Live Material at the 42nd annual Apimondia International Beeekeeping Congress in Buenos Aires. Her topic: “Changes and Developments in the Queen and Package Bee Industry.”
Cobey, who has taught the specialized classes since the early 1980s, draws researchers and beekeepers from throughout the world, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rico, England, Egypt, France, Spain India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Korea, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Venezuela, Columbia.
By invitation, she’s also taught several classes in the host countries of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica Egypt, Jamaica, Mexico, Turkey and South Africa.
For more information on her classes, check the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
What do you think of when someone says "zombies?"
Students sitting inattentively in class? A souless body? Or a honey bee infested with parasitic flies?
A Zombie, according to Wikipedia, is a term used "to denote an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means, such as witchcraft....Since the late 19th century, zombies have acquired notable popularity, especially in North American and European folklore. In modern times, the term 'zombie' has been applied to an undead race in horror fiction, largely largely drawn from George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.
Honey bees infested with parasitic flies are the latest organisms tabbed "zombies."
San Francisco State University researchers, in work published Jan. 3 in the Public Library of Science (PLoS One) journal, noted that when a parasitic phorid fly (Apocephalus borealis) infests honey bees, the bees fly around like zombies and cannot return to their hives.
Immediately, the paper received more than 10,000 hits.
Joseph DeRisi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UC San Francisco, touched on pests and parasites of bees when he discussed his own research Jan. 9 at UC Davis.
"If you want to get 10,000 hits on your PLoS paper, use the word, zombie," DeRisi quipped, as the audience roared. When the laughter died down, he deadpanned: "I'm going to use in my next paper." (As of 7:30 p.m. today, Jan. 13, the accesss count soared to 32,443.)
When the parasitic fly lays its eggs in bees, this causes the bee to "night forage and travel to light," DeRisi said.
"This is a good high school experiment you can do at home," DeRisi said. "Find dead or dying bees beneath a light and place them in a jar and see what happens."
DeRisi added that "I do not believe that phorids are responsible for colony collapse disorder (CCD). It's not a major contributor."
"Although zombie bees are cool, they're not responsible for CCD."
DeRisi, a molecular biologist/biochemist and a 2004 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Grant (also known as "the genius award") designed and programmed a groundbreaking tool for finding (and fighting) viruses -- the ViroChip, a DNA microarray that test for the presence of all known viruses in one step.
Other bee experts share his views on that the parasitic fly is not a dominant factor in CCD. The parasitic fly also lays its eggs in bumble bees (which also could be described as "zombies."
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology believes that the bee's immune system is already depressed, and it's basically "easy pickings" for a fly searching to lay its eggs in an organism.
Perhaps the bees are already dead or dying when the flies find their hosts? Perhaps honey bees with healthy immune systems are not victims?
Could be. But the bees of interest now are zahm-bees!