Mellow yellow! The butterflies are back!
We spotted a bright yellow butterfly nectaring a bush germander on Feb. 7 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
He said it "counts as the first Valley record in 2011."
The orange sulphur butterfly, also known as "the alfalfa butterfly," often reaches "very high densities in alfalfa fields in midsummer to autumn," Shapiro says. When the alfalfa is cut, it "may emigrate en masse, even flooding into cities. This is also our most variable butterfly, seasonally and individually."
Its presence on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, probably had something to do with the unseasonable warm weather--or that enticing-- oh, so enticing--bee friendly garden.
It's friendly to other pollinators, too!
Like orange sulphur butterflies...
Shapiro's the professor who sponsors the "beer for butterfly" competition; for 40 years he has issued a call for the first cabbage white butterfly of the year in Yolo, Solano or Sacramento. (He usually wins; he collected the first one of 2011 in Suisun City, Solano County, on Jan. 31.)
Perhaps Professor Shapiro should sponsor a "wine for a butterfly" contest: the first orange sulphur butterfly of the year photographed in the garden receives a....drum roll...bottle of wine. Or, maybe the first to find a yellow-faced bumble bee in the haven could receive...ahem...a jar of honey. And Kool-Aid for the first cuckoo bee!
No matter, it's a treat to find such a glorious butterfly--and so early in the year.
When Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology asked California beekeepers for photos of their bee trucks moving out at night to the almond orchards, his call did not go unanswered.
Bob Miller of Miller's Honeybees in Watsonville provided a series of photos.
But let's let him tell the story:
"These photos were taken February 2005. They (bees) had been doing very well and it was a warm evening. We had loaded these colonies near Monterey Bay, and were moving them to Braden Ranch almonds near Snelling.
"This load contained about 135 colonies, and had been given additional supers for honey production about 10 days prior and had pretty much filled them. This is usually not a normal happening at this time of the year. The bees, being warm and on a honey flow, needed to have some breathing room, so out they came. We unloaded them that evening after a three-hour trip. They had not cooled down at all."
Amazing photos. We're glad Bob Miller picked up his camera before heading out; his photos help tell the bee-almond pollination story.
This year's California almond crop is valued at $3.2 billion. NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture) forecasts 1.65 billion pounds this year, up 8.5 percent above last year's revised production of 1.41 billion.
However, this may be overstated by 50 million pounds, according to industry consensus.
Mark Jansen, president and CEO of Blue Diamond Growers, writes in the current edition of Almond Facts, that a predominantly wet harvest could "reduce the saleable product by another 20 to 50 million pounds, bringing the likely crop size to between 1.55 and 1.6 million pounds."
And, he writes, "With a consumption growth rate of 8 percent, our industry will need a 2011 crop of more than 1.75 billion pounds to sustain its current growth. As most regions in the world consume more almonds, and with developing nations desiring more protein in their diet plants, almonds are a perfect fit."
California currently has 750,000 acres of almonds in production, with each acre requiring two bee colonies. That's 1.2 million colonies needed to pollinate the almonds, according to honey bee guru Eric Mussen. Since California doesn't have that many colonies--the number is around 500,000--the remainder must come from beekeepers outside the state.
Early varieties of almonds are already blooming, but generally, Feb. 14--Valentine's Day--launches the pollination season for the commercial growers.
At the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, my favorite almond tree--yes, everybody ought to have a favorite almond tree--is just about to burst into bloom.
The Laidlaw bees and other pollinators are currently foraging in the cape mallow, bush germander, roses and seaside daisies in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven.
But they're checking out those almonds.
As are we all.
A recent survey commissioned by the California Academy of Science showed that nearly half of the nation's adults believe that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time.
And entomology? Some college departments plan to change "entomology" to "insect science" because of the quizzical looks they receive at the very mention of "entomology."
Enter Judy Scotchmoor (photo above). She's a national award-winning science educator who helps classroom teachers and others understand the nature and processes of science--and the societal value. She taught math and science to middle-school students for 25 years before joining the University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley.
Scotchmoor, the museum's assistant director in charge of education and public outreach, will speak twice at UC Davis on Friday, Feb. 11. Both lectures are in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive.
Her first talk, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., is on “Shifting the Paradigm in Our Teaching: Proving Dobzhansky Correct.” She will cover results from an award-winning National Science Foundation (NSF)-initiative on teaching evolution.
Her second talk, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., is titled “How Science Works: Investigating the Real Process of Science.” She will offer reasons and methods for an innovative way of communicating the scientific process.
Scotchmoor's primary role at the museum is using paleontology and technology as vehicles for improving science education in the classroom.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, plans to webcast the talks, said spokesperson Tabatha Yang (email@example.com).
If so, stay tuned on this site.
Meanwhile, the news stories that go viral, such as "the honey bee killer" with "five deadly stingers" leaving behind "a blood-stained battlefield," clearly show why we must tackle science illiteracy.
The "honey bee killer?" It's merely a pollinator, aka the European wool carder bee, which has existed for thousands of years with the honey bee in Europe and is now found throughout much of the United States. It was first detected in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
Bring on the asters.
When you visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, you'll see Donna Billick's six-foot-long bee sculpture, Miss Bee Haven, "nectaring" a ceramic purple dome aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).
Appropriately enough, planted next to the sculpture are the aster's cousins: purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). They're all from the same aster family (Asteraceae).
Ah, the aster family...When the purple coneflowers bloomed last summer and fall, they drew scores of honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees and carpenter bees in a blazing show of diversity.
Diversity is part of the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven's reason for being. It's intended to provide the Laidlaw honey bees with a year-around food source, raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees and other pollinators, encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own, and serve as a research site.
Want to visit what the pollinators are visiting? The haven, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, is open year-around, dawn to dusk, for self-guided tours. Admission is free.
There you can bee-hold Miss Bee Haven and the seasonal blooms.
Now, bring on the asters!
Roger Vargas is in the thick of fruit-fly research and he probably wishes those insects would thin out.
He's a research entomologist at the USDA-ARS Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii. For those who don't deal with acronyms, that's the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Vargas' key research interests include mass rearing, sterile insect technique, ecology, biological control, and area-wide integrated pest management (IPM) of fruit flies.
Vargas will be at the University of California, Davis, on Wednesday, Feb. 9 to speak on "Area-Wide Fruit Fly Programs against Fruit Flies in Hawaii, French Polynesia and California." His talk, sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and part of its winter seminar series, is set from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 1022 Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives.
The lecture will be webcast live at http://uc-d.na4.acrobat.com/ucsn1/ and then archived here. He plans to cover current area-wide management programs against Bactrocera fruit flies in Hawaii, French Polynesia, and California.
"Fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) are among the most economically important pests attacking soft fruits worldwide," Vargas says. "Bactrocera is a tephritid fly genus of at least 440 species distributed primarily in tropical Asia, the south Pacific, and Australia. However, these species have been spreading throughout the world at an alarming rate over the past 15 years.
"Oriental fruit fly (B. dorsalis) has become established and is spreading throughout French Polynesia.
"Carambola fruit fly (B. carambolae) is established and spreading throughout areas of South America.
"B. invadens, B. latifrons and melon fly (B. cucurbitae) are established and spreading in Africa.
"The peach fruit fly (B. zonata) is established and spreading in Africa and the Mediterranean region."
In fact, Vargas says, every year Bactrocera species are accidentally introduced from various parts of the world into California, requiring expensive treatment programs.
For an up-close and personal look at a fruit fly, check out the USDA-ARS photo of a Oriental fruit fly laying eggs in a papaya (below).
Coming soon...to a fruit near you...