The beekeepers will be there!
The California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) will meet for its 128th annual convention, Tuesday through Thursday, Nov. 14-16, at Harrah's Lake Tahoe. The theme: "Inputs, Outputs and Expectations." Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross will deliver the keynote address at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday.
President Steve Godin of Visalia will helm the three-day conference, aided by first vice president Mike Tolmachoff, Madera; second vice president Brent Ashurst, Westmorland; and treasurer Carlen Jupe of Salida. Their scientific advisor is Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Niño will speak on "Research Stories from the Niño Lab" at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Staff research associate (and husband) Bernardo Niño of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility will address the group at 10:30 a.m., Thursday on "Practical Solutions for the Beginner Beekeepers."
Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of UC Davis will lead a "Bridging the Gap" panel at 11 a.m., Thursday. Bee breeder-geneticist Sue Cobey of Washington State University, former manager of the Laidlaw facility, will speak at 1:30 p.m., Thursday on "Collecting Honey Bee Germplasm in Europe and the Impact on Genetic Diversity in the United States." Basically, it's about building a better bee.
Among the many speakers are
- Randy Oliver of Scientific Beekeeping, Grass Valley, "Oxalic/Glycerin Application and Breeding for Mite Resistance," at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday
- Bob Curtis of the Almond Board of California will provide an update at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday
- Dennis vanEnglesdorp of the University of Maryland faculty and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership, whose topic is "Managing Reistance in Varroa Mite Populations" at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday
- Marla Spivak, MacArthur Fellow and McKnight Distinguished Professor in Entomology at the University of Minnesota, who will discuss "Bee Health and Social Immunity" at 11 a.m. Wednesday
All in all, it promises to be an educational and informative conference, centered on our littlest agricultural workers: the honey bees.
CSBA is headquartered at 1521 I St., Sacramento. The office can be reached at (916) 441-0302 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the University of California, Davis, and staff research associate Bernardo Niño are planning three classes this fall and one deals specifically with “Varroa Mite Management Strategies.” The all-day short course starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22 in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, 1 Bee Biology Road, west of the UC Davis central campus.
Current beekeeping challenges call for all beekeepers to have a solid understanding of varroa mite biology and management approaches, the husband-wife Niño team said. “We will dive deeper into understanding varroa biology and will devote the majority of the time to discussing pros and cons of various means to monitor mitigate and manage this crucial honey bee pest.”
The course modules will cover varroa biology, effect of varroa on honey bee colonies, non-chemical management, and chemical options. The practical modules will cover mite monitoring, treatment applications, data/record keeping and inspection of colonies for varroa.
The varroa course is limited to 25 participants, who are asked to bring their bee suit/veil if they own one. The $175 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch and refreshments. Registration is underway at https:registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/342. The last day to register is Wednesday, Sept. 20. The blood-sucking varroa mite, which can also transmit diseases, crippling and decimating a hive, is considered a beekeeper's No. 1 enemy.
Bernardo will speak on beehive iterations on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 7 during a conference tour of the Laidlaw facility from 1 to 4. This is part of several education stations planned at the facility and the nearby bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, both operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. There's still time to register for the Western Apicultural Society conference.
Then in October, the Niños will teach two more classes at the Laidlaw facility as part of their fall schedule: “Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” is on Saturday, Oct. 7; and “Queen Rearing Basics” is on Friday, Oct. 20. Both are one-day short courses set from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Laidlaw facility.
Planning Ahead for Your First Hive, Saturday, Oct. 7, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Participants will learn about and practice many aspects of what is necessary to get the colony started and keep it healthy and thriving. This short course will include lectures and hands-on exercises. “This course is perfect for those who have little or no beekeeping experience and would like to obtain more knowledge and practical skills to move on to the next step of owning and caring for their own honey bee colonies,” the Niños said. At the end of the course participants will be knowledgeable about installing honey bee packages, monitoring their own colonies and possible challenges with maintaining a healthy colony.
Lecture modules will cover honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to start your colony and maladies of the hive. Practical modules will cover how to build a hive, how to install a package, how to insect your hive and how to monitor for varroa mites.
The course is limited to 25 participants; participants are asked to bring their bee suit or veil if they own one. The $95 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a hive tool), lunch and refreshments. Registration is underway at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/314. The last day to register is Friday, Oct. 6.
Queen-Rearing Basics, Friday, Oct. 20, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about the theory behind the queen rearing strategies and topics from basic queen biology to basics of breeding honey bees. “This course is perfect for those who want to learn more about the most important individual in their colonies or have been thinking about rearing the own queens, but might not feel ready to do hands-on exercise," the Niños said.
Topics covered will include honey bee queen biology, ideal rearing conditions, various queen rearing techniques, mating new queens, installing new queens and basic breeding principles. The course is limited to 25 participants who have basic beekeeping experience. The $125 registration fee covers the cost of breakfast, lunch and refreshments. Registration is underway at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/341. The last day to register is Wednesday, Oct. 18.
About the Niño Team: Elina Niño holds a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University and Bernardo Niño holds a master's degree in entomology from North Carolina State University.
Through her extension activities, Elina works to support beekeepers and the beekeeping industry. Her lab offers a variety of beekeeping courses and educational opportunities for beekeepers, future beekeepers, other agricultural professionals and the public. Most recently, her lab has implemented the first ever California Master Beekeeper Program. Her research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding the synergistic effects of pesticides on queen health and adult workers in order to improve beekeeping management practice, testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, a major pest of bees, and understanding the benefits of supplemental forage in almond orchards on honey bee health.
Bernardo, whose master's degree dealt with the population and genetic colony structure of the Eastern subterranean termite, switched to honey bees eight years ago. He now keeps “more than 130 colonies “happily buzzing to accommodate the needs of all the researchers in the lab,” and leads projects on varroa control and honey bee health. He has also developed a number of educational programs for diverse audiences and for the past seven years he has been involved with organizing and running queen rearing workshops and serving as the program supervisor of the California Master Beekeeper Program.
For more information, access the Niño lab website at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/. Be sure to read Elina's newsletter, UC Davis Apiculture, linked on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology home page. You can also keep in touch with the Niño lab's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/
It's National Honey Bee Day or National Honey Bee Awareness Day, launched in 2009 by newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsak during his first year of office with the Obama Administration.
The goals are the same as those in 2009:
- Promote and advance beekeeping
- Educate the public about honey bees and beekeeping
- Ensure that the public is aware of environmental concerns affecting honey bees
It's a day when we applaud our bees, and the bee scientists, beekeepers, commercial breeders, and all the educational, scientific and research organizations that friend them, fund them, or fuel them.
Indeed, one third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. What many folks don't realize is that honey bees are not native to the United States. European colonists brought them here in 1622, and it wasn't until 1853 when a beekeeper in the San Jose area introduced them to California.
Statistics provided by the National Honey Bee Day officials, help tell the story of the industry:
- For every 100 beekeepers, 95 percent are hobbyists, 4 percent are sideliners, and 1 percent are commercial beekeepers.
- Beekeeping dates back at least 4500 years.
- Beekeeping can be a sustainable endeavor.
- Renting bees to farmers in need of pollination generates a source of income.
- Beehives are kept on farms, in backyards, on balconies, and high-rise rooftops, all across the country.
Bees will also take center stage at the 40th annual conference of the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) at the University of California, Davis. The conference, to take place Sept. 5-8 in the Activities and Recreation Center, is quite special because the organization was founded at UC Davis. WAS president is Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology promises an educational program, complete with speakers, networking, tours and a silent auction.
Among those speaking will be Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, who will address the crowd on "The Impact of Varroa on Honey Bee Reproductive Castes (Queen Bee, Worker Bee and Drone): Where Will the Research Lead Us?” Her talk is at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7.
Her research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding the synergistic effects of pesticides on queen health and adult workers in order to improve beekeeping management practice, testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, a major pest of bees, and understanding the benefits of supplemental forage in almond orchards on honey bee health. (Read her apiary newsletters, access her lab website at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/ or her lab Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/)
Writer Stephanie Parreira of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) recently interviewed Niño for a podcast on bee pests and how to manage them, using IPM methods. The podcast appears on the UC ANR Green Blog. You can read the transcript here.
Niño mentioned that varroa mites remain the key concern of beekeepers. "In fact, when I first started my position here as an extension specialist at UC Davis, I asked beekeepers what is one of the things that they would like me to focus on, and about ninety-nine percent of them said varroa mites," she said in the podcast. "Varroa mites are a problem because they basically suck honey bee blood, or honey bee hemolymph, they transmit viruses, [and] they can suppress immune genes in developing and adult bees. So they can kill the colony, basically, if they're not managed properly. We have seen in our own colonies that if we do not treat or manage varroa mites, we know that we will lose that colony over winter."
If you're interested in attending the WAS conference and learning more about bees, you can register here. The speakers represent a wide spectrum of expertise and topics, from top-bar beekeeping to pesticides to how to keep your colonies healthy. Or, you can contact President Mussen at email@example.com for more information.
That's the consensus of the declining honey bee population in the United States.
A newly released poll showed that our nation's beekeepers lost an average of 21 percent of their colonies last winter, as compared to 27 percent the winter before, according to the 11th annual survey conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership. They polled nearly 5000 beekeepers.
"We would, of course, all love it if the trend continues, but there are so many factors playing a role in colony health," bee expert Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, told the Associated Press in a recent news story headlined “Survey Finds U.S. Honeybee Losses Improve from Horrible to Bad.”
Nino, who was not part of the survey, added “I am glad to see this, but wouldn't celebrate too much yet."
Survey director Dennis vanEngelsdorp. a University of Maryland apiculturist, told the Associated Press: "It's good news in that the numbers are down, but it's certainly not a good picture. It's gone from horrible to bad."
Indeed, the 10-year average for winter losses is 28.4 percent, and bee scientists want it down to at least 15 percent.
Pests, pesticides, diseases, stress and malnutrition all play a role in our nation's honey bee population decline.
Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, who retired in 2014 after a 38-year career, has long pointed out the malnutrition issue is a major factor in the declining bee population.
"You, no doubt, have lost track of how many times I have stated that malnutrition is a leading factor in our unacceptable annual bee colony loss numbers," Mussen wrote in a 2013 bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, located on the Department of Entomology and Nematology website. "I have also stated innummerable times that our synthesized bee diets just cannot match the value of nutrients obtained by bees from a mixture of quality pollens. My concern has been that although we have a very good idea of the protein requirements for honey bees, the rations of essential amino acids honey bees require, and their required vitamins and minerals, etc., we still cannot feed bees on our best diets and keep them alive more than two months in confinement."
Malnutrition is linked to a number of factors, including loss of habitat, but also climate change.
Scientists believe that our rising carbon dioxide levels may contribute to die-off of bees. A May 2016 Yale publication warned that "Rising C02 Levels May Contribute to Die-off of Bees."
"As they investigate the factors behind the decline of bee populations, scientists are now eyeing a new culprit--soaring levels of carbon dioxide, which alter plant physiology and significantly reduce protein in important sources of pollen," wrote Lisa Palmer.
This is the gist of it: scientists headed over to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to examine the pollen content of goldenrod specimens, dating back to 1842. Why goldenrod? It's a key food source for bees in the summer to late-fall bloomer when not much else is blooming.
They compared samples from 1842 to 2014, when atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide rose from about 280 parts per million to 398 pmm, and found the results quite troubling--a lot less protein in the pollen of newer specimens. In fact, the most recent pollen samples contained 30 percent less protein. "The greatest drop in protein occurred from 1960 to 2014, when the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose dramatically," Palmer wrote.
Scientists speculate the rising carbon dioxide concentrations--think climate change--may be playing a role in the global die-off of bee populations "by undermining bee nutrition and reproductive success," Palmer wrote.
Noted entomologist May Berenbaum, professor of entomology and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (she's now a past president of the Entomological Society of America) was quoted in the article: "A declining quality of protein across the board almost assuredly is affecting bees. Like humans, good nutrition is essential for bee health by allowing them to fend off all kinds of health threats. Anything that indicates that the quality of their food is declining is worrisome."
So honey bees--which pollinate about one-third of the food we eat--are still in trouble.
And so, it appears, are we.
And your bees.
The declining honey bee population now has 52 more friends. Science-based friends. Bee ambassadors. Partners.
They're the new apprentice graduates of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB), administered by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and her colleagues at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Program, University of California, Davis.
The program, which includes apprentice, journeyman and master levels, uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors to help the troubling honey bee population, assist beekeepers, and engage in public outreach, according to CAMPB program manager Bernardo Niño of the E. L. Niño lab. The written and practical exams for apprentice took place in September at the Laidlaw facility. Now the 52 grads can opt to stop at the apprentice level or continue on to the more advanced levels of journeyman and master.
“We know that all will represent the program confidently and knowledgeable throughout the state and the country and we look forward to working with all the future CAMPBers,” wrote Elina and Bernardo Niño in the current edition of their Apiculture Newsletter.
The 52 beekeepers answered 125 questions on the written test, dealing with basic honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, maladies of the hive, and management techniques. Then they took the practical exam, which consisted of 20 minutes of one-on-one time with an examiner. They demonstrated their mastery of basic colony and hive inspections, identification of equipment and different hive types, and various management techniques.
The most intimidating portion of the exam? Performing a sugar shake to monitor for varroa mite levels, the Niños said. The parasitic varroa mites are considered "Public Enemy No. 1" of honey bees.
The first beekeeper to sign up for the practical test, held in the Laidlaw apiary, was Cheryl Veretto, president of the Sonoma County Beekeepers' Association (SCBA) and a member of the Sonoma County Master Gardeners (SCMG).
“I signed up to get it over with," Veretto acknowledged. "I hate waiting for a test--it is nerve-racking. But once I opened the hive, I felt at home. The Master Beekeeper session was somewhat intense studying for the test. There is a lot of science/biology and vocabulary that I learned. Overall, it was a great experience. And I passed."
Veretto joined SCBA seven years ago, and has been keeping bees for six years. Seven years ago, the membership totaled 95; today it's 460. "SCBA has been a non-profit since 2011," she said. "Prior to that it was a club that changed names a few times but the core beekeepers have been going since 1990s."
How did she decide to be a beekeeper; what interested her in bees and in beekeeping? “I started out as a greedy gardener-- wanting everything to be pollinated so that I could select my best,” Veretto recalled. “I have always planted for pollinators in my gardens, but wanted to maximize, and so, I started beekeeping--and what a journey its been. I am now an activist for pollinators, and you never stop learning when you get into bees/beekeeping. The honey bee and humans are tied together closer than many think."
Veretto thoroughly enjoys keeping bees and engaging in public service. “I enjoy building community. We have an awesome bee club with a membership that is fully engaged--we have activities going on most every week, and we are active in the community, doing presentations and demonstrations,” she said. “I do public speaking with both SCBA and SCMG groups talking on 'Planting for Pollinators' and 'Safe Gardening' practices. I just finished the Advanced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program with Master Gardeners and hope to include much of that information in my presentations as well. My true passion is gardening and propagating bee forage plants; most days you find me outside in the gardens and apiary.”
Veretto lives on a small rural farm with her human family and 12 bee hives, along with Cashmere goats, chickens, cats, dogs, a food garden and several pollinator forage gardens.
"I started beekeeping with one hive six years ago and gradually built up to 12," she said. "I think that is a good size of apiary for me; it takes a little more time for management but I am learning so much more, having several colonies to watch, and something different is going on in each. I keep bees in both Langstroth and TopBar hives, and have an observation hive for demonstration.“
Now she's looking forward to serving in the California Master Beekeeper Program as a science-based bee ambassador.
Interested in learning more about the California Master Beekeeper Program? Here are some Niño-lab resources:
- California Master Beekeeper Website
- E. L. Niño Lab Website
- E. L. Niño Lab Facebook Page
- Apiculture Newsletter
The Niño lab plans to expand testing sites to encompass the entire state, and will be working with UC Cooperative Extension offices. The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center helps support the program. To receive the most up-to-date news and information, folks can sign up for the CAMPB-specific mailing list.) For further information, contact Bernardo Niño at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 380-BUZZ (2899).