As noted entomologist May Berenbaum pointed out, it's "a celebration of Earth's 100,000-plus animal species that, by transporting pollen and facilitating flower fertilization, make life possible for two-thirds of the world's flowering plants."
Berenbaum wrote an excellent pollinator piece posted yesterday on the National Academy of Sciences' Facebook page. It bears repeating.
Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a past president of the Entomological Society of America, related: "Not entirely coincidentally, 2017 is an anniversary for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—it's the tenth year since the publication of the Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America report, a committee I chaired."
"My association with pollinator issues goes back to 2004, when, as Chair of the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources, I was an outspoken advocate for a study to determine whether North America's pollinator species were declining, as appeared to be happening elsewhere in the world. The committee released its findings in October 2006, among the most striking of which was a decline in the numbers of commercial honey bees such that, were the trend to continue, the U.S. apiculture industry, on which producers of over 90 crops depend, 'would vanish by 2035.' In a remarkable confluence of events, that same month, the first reports of what was later dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) surfaced; bees literally began vanishing, abandoning depleted, doomed colonies. Concern in the agricultural community and then the general public escalated and has remained high ever since. So, sadly, have losses; although CCD itself has declined, in the past year America lost one-third of its commercial colonies."
"The 2007 report also concluded that, unlike honey bees, population data for thousands of America's native pollinators (including its 4,000 native bee species) were sorely lacking and called for increasing efforts to engage the public in documenting, mitigating, and reversing declines," Berenbaum noted. "Since then, many data gaps have been filled and conservation strategies implemented. In 2014, President Obama prioritized a national strategy to promote pollinator health, including public-private partnerships to restore pollinator habitat."
This year the rusty-patched bumblebee "became the first continental bee to be protected under the Endangered Species Act," Berenbaum wrote.
Let's hope there will be many others.
Background on the rusty-patched bumble bee: Among those credited with sounding the alarm was Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. It was a long, dedicated and challenging effort by many people who care. In 2010 Thorp co-authored a petition sent to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The petition was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013. In 2015, agency officials agreed to consider it. In 2016, they proposed protection. Then on Jan. 10, 2017, the agency listed the rusty-patched bumble bee as an endangered species.
Other key players in making this all happen included natural history photographer/filmmaker Clay Bolt and his friends at the Day's Edge Productions, which created the award-winning film, A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee with support from the Xerces Society and others. The result: nearly 200,000 persons signed a petition seeking endangered status for the bee.
Thorp, co-author of Bumble Bees of North America, An Identification Guide. continues to sound the alarm on the declining bumble bee population, especially Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini), found only in a five-county area of northern California and southern Oregon.
He's been monitoring the elusive bee since 1998, but sadly, hasn't seen it since Aug. 9, 2006 when he spotted it in a meadow near Mt. Ashland. (See Bug Squad)
Thorp helped place Franklin's bumble bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). "Bombus franklini occurs only in the USA," IUCN relates. "It is found only from southern Oregon to northern California between the Coast and Sierra-Cascade Ranges, in Douglas, Jackson and Josephine and Siskiyou and Trinity counties in Oregon and California, respectively. This area is around 190 miles in the north-south direction (40º58' to 43º30'N latitude) and 70 miles from east to west (122º to 124ºW longitude)."
Franklin's bumble bee is named in 1921 for Henry J. Franklin, who monographed the bumble bees of North and South America in 1912-13. During its flight season, from mid-May through September, Franklin's bumble bee frequents California poppies, lupines, vetch, wild roses, blackberries, clover, sweet pea, horsemint and mountain penny royal. It collects pollen primarily from lupines and poppies, and gathers nectar mainly from mints.
As the end of the 10th annual National Pollination Week nears, there is so much more to be done to understand, protect and celebrate our pollinators to ensure that they don't "end."
As May Berenbaum said: "A week hardly seems long enough for the celebration!"/span>
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.
When the inaugural California Honey Festival buzzed into Woodland on Saturday, May 6, organizers figured attendance might total around 3,000.
No. It did not. It tallied about 20,000, according to organizer Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
And this was the inaugural one! Next year is the second annual...
The festival was all about honey, bees, and beekeepers. Just as the queen bee reigns in a colony, bee products reigned at the festival: honey, honeycomb, beeswax candles and bee pollen.
The mission, said Harris, was "to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping through this unique educational platform, to the broader public."
A key attraction was Apis Inlusio, a sculpture art car designed to look like a bee. Built for the 2013 Burning Man Festival, it is based in San Francisco.
Another key attraction was the colorful walk-around-bee character (inside was Benji Shade of the Woodland Christian School). Photographers considered her very "bee-coming." Teacher Jessica Hiatt did the talking (bees don't talk).
Margaret Lombard, chief executive officer of the National Honey Board, based in Firestone, Colo., was among those speaking on the Beekeeper Stage, one of five stages at the festival.
Among the other speakers:
- Billy Synk, director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m., Paso Robles, and former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility;
- Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Vicki Wojcik, research director of Pollinator Partnership, San Francisco
- Gene Brandi of Gene Brandi Apiaries, Los Banos (he is active in the California State Beekeepers' Association, the American Beekeeping Federation and the National Honey Board)
Bernardo Niño of the Elina Niño lab kept busy answering questions how how to become a beekeeper and how to become a master beekeeper.
The California Honey Festival is over, but there's another activity on the bee horizon: The 40th annual Western Apicultural Society meeting, set from Sept. 5-6 in Davis, where it all began. Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen, one of the co-founders, is serving his sixth term as president. It's an educational conference that's open to all interested persons who want to learn more about bees and beekeeping.
If you like writing with light (photography), then you'll probably love capturing images of honey bees spinning like helicopters.
In the late afternoon, when the light softens, head over to your favorite Spanish lavender patch. Pull up a chair, listen to the buzz of the bees, and watch them spin their wings somewhat like helicopters do their blades.
Such was the case yesterday. The bees were buzzing so loud in the patch of lavender, Lavandula stoechas, that they sounded like spring unleashed. That buzz you hear is their wings; they've been recorded at 200 beats per second. Honey bees can be long-distance travelers; they can forage up to five or six miles, and can move about 15 miles per hour.
Those streaming purple petals topping the bloom are actually sterile bracts--Wikipedia defines a bract as "a modified or specialized leaf, especially one associated with a reproductive structure such as a flower, inflorescence axis, or cone scale." The bracts resemble rabbit ears, but ironically, Spanish lavender is rabbit-resistant and deer resistant (which is probably why there are no deer or rabbits in our urban yard!)
Meanwhile, if you've been wanting to learn more about honey bees, mark your calendar for these events in Davis and Woodland, Yolo County.
California Honey Festival: The inaugural California Honey Festival will take place Saturday, May 6 in downtown Woodland. Associated with the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, it will be held outdoors (Main Street), encompassing four blocks. It's free and open to the public. Expect beekeeper talks, booths, vendors, music, mead, honey tasting and lots of fun, says Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollinator Center See http://californiahoneyfestival.com.
UC Davis Bee Symposium: The Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology are sponsoring their third annual Bee Symposium, "Keeping Bees Healthy," on Sunday, May 7 in the UC Davis Conference Center. Keynote speaker is noted apiculturist Steve Sheppard of Thurber Professor of Apiculture and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash. Sheppard specializes in population genetics and evolution of honey bees, insect introductions and mechanisms of genetic differentiation. He also heads the Apis Molecular Systematics Laboratory. Registration is underway at http://honey.ucdavis.edu/events/2017-bee-symposium.
Western Apicultural Society (WAS): Founded 40 year ago at UC Davis, WAS will return to its roots for its next conference, set from Sept. 5-8 in Davis. Its president is Eric Mussen, UC Extension apiculturist emeritus, who is based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's a familiar face; he's one of the three WAS co-founders and he's serving his sixth term as president. The conference open to the public. Registration is underway on the WAS website, http://www.westernapiculturalsociety.org.
That was the most commonly asked question at the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) booth during the California Agriculture Day on Wednesday, March 22 on the west lawn of the State Capitol.
The annual event, heralding the first day of spring and showcasing the state's many crops and commodities, also offers an opportunity "for farmers and ranchers to show their appreciation by bringing together state legislators, government leaders and the public for agricultural education," a spokesperson said. This year's theme: "Food for Life."
Despite the light rain, several thousand crowded through the gates to visit the 52 booths, see 4-H and FFA animals, and to sample everything from tri-tip sandwiches from the Buckhorn Restaurant to strawberries from the California Strawberry Commission to milk from the Dairy Council of California to honey from the CSBA. Scores of other activities abounded.
The CSBA crew handed out some 2500 honey bee sticks-- long straws filled with honey--to two groups of people: legislators and staff from 10:30 to 11:30, and the public from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
A message affixed to each honey stick emphasized the importance of honey bees.
Honey bees, the five-bullet message related:
- Are the backbone of U.S. agriculture
- Pollinate 1/3 of the human diet
- Pollinate 120 various U.S. crops worth over $15 billion
- Pollinate California's $5.3 billion almond productions
- Produced over $200 million in U.S. honey and beeswax
The bees arrived, too. Providing the two bee observation hives: Bernardo Niño, who serves as the program manager of the California Master Beekeepers' Program, based at UC Davis, and Bill Cervenka, a longtime CSBA member. To visitor queries, they pointed out the whereabouts of the queen bee in the Laidlaw hive with: “Look for the pink one!” referring to the queen bee marked with a pink dot.
And just how are the bees doing?
"It's a challenge," Niño said, detailing some of the issues, from parasites, pesticides and pests to diseases and malnutrition. The "bee educators" also referred to the 44 percent loss: a national survey showed that beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2015 to April 2016. "Rates of both winter loss and summer loss—and consequently, total annual losses—worsened compared with last year," according to Bee Informed. This marks the second consecutive survey year that summer loss rates rivaled winter loss rates. (See survey.)
CSBA, a non-profit organization serving California's beekeeping industry--primarily commercial beekeepers and queen breeders--actively supports bee research efforts; works with government officials to protect and promote the interest of the beekeeping industry; and educates the public about the beneficial aspects of honey bees. Officials say that the group supports research beneficial to beekeeping practices, provides a forum for the cooperation among beekeepers, and supports the economic viability of the beekeeping industry. Membership also includes a subscription to "The California Bee Times" and automatic membership in the $10,000 Bee Theft Rewards Program.
The E. L. Niño lab, directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, supports California beekeepers through research, extension, and outreach. Their website lists current beekeeping courses which began March 11 and continue through June 11. They also maintain the E. L. Niño Lab Facebook site.