You could call it a slacker, a deadbeat, a moocher, a sponger, or a loafer.
Or you could call it a cuckoo bee.
Take the cuckoo bee, Xeromelecta californica, a parasite of the digger bee, Anthophora.
When the female Anthophora leaves its nest to collect more pollen, the female cuckoo bee sneaks in and lays an egg.
"When the host female seals her nest, it seals the doom of her own offspring," distinguished emeritus professor Robbin Thorp of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology told the crowd at last week's 40th annual Western Apicultural Society meeting, held at UC Davis. They eat the provisions, a pollen ball meant for the host offspring, and kill and eat the host larvae.
The cuckoo bee offspring emerge.
Thorp, co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, also called attention to their "pointy abdomen" and "wasp-looking appearance."
But they are bees--cuckoo bees. They're also called parasitic bees or "kleptoparasites" or "cleptoparasitises."
They have no pollen-carrying/collecting apparatus, like a scopa, because they don't need any, Thorp said, just as they do not construct their own nests.
If you look around a pollinator garden, you just might sight some cuckoo bees. Last week we saw a Xeromelecta californica (as identified by Thorp and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology). It was sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica.
We've also spotted Anthophora urbana nectaring on our lavender.
One thing's for certain: a cuckoo bee didn't lay its eggs in the Anthophora nest that time or the urbana wouldn't have been there.
Her name is Sarah Red-Laird, and she is here to present an interactive educational program involving bees and beekeeping, honey, beeswax and bee habitat to students from Peregrine School, Davis. It's part of her "Bees and Kids" program, funded by the American Beekeeping Federation's Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees.
She's speaking to them as part of the Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference, Sept. 5-8.
The students are super excited.
Holding up fruit after fruit, she asks if they like strawberries, apples, oranges and lemons, all bee-pollinated. They eagerly raise their hands. She tells them that bees are responsible for providing one-third of the food we eat, including fruits, vegetables and nuts (almonds). Our shopping carts would be sparse if there were no bees, she says. She quizzes them about grapes, rice and oats, which are not bee-pollinated.
Then she turns to honey.
"How much honey does a bee make in her lifetime?" she asks. "Is it 1 cup, 1 teaspoon or 1/12th of a teaspoon? if you think it's one cup, raise your hand." Half a dozen hands shoot up.
"If you think it's one teaspoon, raise your hand." A few more raise their hands.
"If you think it's 1/12th of a teaspoon, raise your hand." One person responds.
"The correct answer," says Sarah the Bee Girl, "is 1/12th of a teaspoon. That's how much a honey bee makes in her lifetime."
"I guessed that!" yells a little girl.
"Did you?" Sarah asks, approvingly. "You're a smartie," she praises.
"We didn't," a boy laments.
Sarah continues. "How many flowers does it take the bees to make one pound of honey?" she asks, holding up a jar of honey.
The students respond with answers that range from 99 to 100 to 200 to 1000 to 2000 to 8000 to 1 billion.
"The correct answer is 2 million," she tells them. "it takes 2 million flowers to fill this one jar of honey."
Sarah drives home the point with: "The best thing to do to help bees is to plant flowers. Let's say it all together. what can you do to help bees?
"Plant flowers!" they chorus.
Later she reads a book and then asks them to answer questions about nurse bees, house bees, scout bees, guard bees, queen bees, foragers and drones. Each person who answers the question correctly is adorned with props depicting that bee.
The first graders love it! They gigle, laugh and cheer.
Next they move in small groups to the educational stations where they taste honey, learn about bee habitat and bees wax, and see honey bees and other bees up close.
It's obvious that Sarah loves bees and wants others to love them, too.
Sarah says her love of bees began in Southern Oregon, on the deck of her aunt's cabin, at the end of a country road. She received her degree, with honors, in resource conservation from the University of Montana and did research in Jerry Bromenshenk Honey Bee Lab. She presented her beekeeping findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research on "How to Keep 100,000 Girlfriends, the Careful Relationship of a Beekeeper and Her Honey Bees."
Among the UC Davis personnel assisting her at the haven were:
- Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who caught and released bees with a device that included a magnifying glass
- Staff research associates Bernardo Niño of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility/UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who staffed the beeswax table, where children drew pictures with crayons
- Staff research associate and Charley Nye of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility/UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who staffed the habitat table, where the children learned about where the bees live.
- Zoe Anderson, a UC Davis undergraduate student majoring in animal biology, assisted with the honey tasting. The youths all agreed they liked Sarah's vetch honey the best.
This is the week of the 40th annual Western Apicultural Society's conference, set Sept. 5-8 at the University of California, Davis. The non-profit group, founded at UC Davis to meet the educational needs of small-scale beekeepers primarily throughout the western United States, will meet in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) on campus.
It's a conference filled with educational topics, networking, field trips, a silent auction, door prizes and just plain "bee" fun, says honey bee guru and Western Apicultural Society (WAS) co-founder Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who is serving his sixth term as president.
He's been bee-sy. Ditto the delivery services to the third floor of Briggs Hall. Tomorrow the packages will be trucked over to the ARC, and the anticipation continues.
The newest addition to the conference schedule is the "Kids and Bees" program, set from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Sept. 5 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis campus. The haven is the department's half-acre educational bee garden. "Bee Girl" Sarah Red-Laird of Ashland, Ore., program director of the American Beekeeping Federation's "Kids and Bees" Program and executive director of Bee Girl will be "borrowing" the site as part of a grant from the American Beekeeping Federation's Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees. First-graders from Peregrine School, Davis, have signed up for the interactive educational program involving bees and beekeeping, honey, beeswax and bee habitat.
Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, and staff research associates Bernardo Niño and Charley Nye of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility/UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will staff four of the work stations.
As for the Bee Girl organization, Sarah describes it as a "nonprofit with a mission to inspire and empower communities to conserve bees, their flowers, and our food system." She serves as the Oregon director of the Western Apicultural Society, a member of the New York Bee Sanctuary Advisory Board, and the regional representative to the Southern Oregon Beekeepers' Association. She is also a "Mountainsmith Brand Ambeesador." (As of Monday afternoon, she was seeking several more volunteers. Those interested can contact her email@example.com or 541-708-1127.) See her work on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@sarahBeeGirl). Her hashtag is #loveyourbees.
Sarah describes her Bee Girl organization as a "nonprofit with a mission to inspire and empower communities to conserve bees, their flowers, and our food system." She serves as the Oregon director of the Western Apicultural Society, a member of the New York Bee Sanctuary Advisory Board, and the regional representative to the Southern Oregon Beekeepers' Association. She is also a "Mountainsmith Brand Ambeesador." (As of Monday afternoon, she was seeking several more adult volunteers to help out at the stations. Those interested can contact her firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-708-1127.) You can see her work--and her passion--on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@sarahBeeGirl). She's known by the hashtag, #loveyourbees.
And she does. The logo adorns her bee suit.
Topics at the WAS meeting? They range from Africanized honey bees to top bar hives to how to keep your bees healthy. See schedule. Eric Mussen, who offers 10 reasons why one should attend the conference (see Bug Squad blog), may be reached at email@example.com for further information.
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/
That will be the topic of honey bee guru Lawrence "Larry" Connor of Kalamazoo, Mich., when he presents a special short course during the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) conference, to take place Sept. 5-8 in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), University of California, Davis.
Connor will present the alternative short course, "Keeping Your Bees Alive and Growing," at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 6 for a $50 extra fee, announced WAS president Eric Mussun, Extension apiculturist emeritus.
Said Connor: "We will start with the concepts in Two and a Half Hives: starting with two colonies of bees and making a nucleus the first season. We will show you how to harvest the bees and brood for a nucleus colony. The same system will for anti-swarm management after your first season. We will spend time looking at nucleus management to cycle new, mite-tolerant queens into your beekeeping, including when and how to establish these hives and prepare them for the winter."
He adds: "We will look at the general nature of bee population management—when to grow a hive and what to do when they fail to thrive. We will end with a discussion about establishing and maintaining a sustainable apiary—keeping your bees alive and thriving year to year. If we have time, we will work on your reading list in beekeeping."
A native of Kalamazoo, Connor holds a doctorate in entomology from Michigan State University, and worked as an Extension entomologist in apiculture at The Ohio State University from 1972 to 1976 before accepting a position in Labelle, Fla., to run a new bee breeding program, Genetic Systems, Inc., the world's first mass production facility for the instrumental inseminated queen honey bees.
Connor left Florida in 1980 and began writing books with Wicwas Press LLC, a company he helped found and now owns. He has published more than a dozen titles dealing with bees, beekeeping, queen rearing and pollination. He regularly contributes to Bee Culture and the American Bee Journal magazines, addressing queen and drone biology and management and beekeeper interviews. He is also an accomplished photographer, artist and actor.
Connor will be one of some 16 speakers, ranging from California to Canada, to address the WAS conference. WAS originated at UC Davis.
More information on the conference is available from the WAS website or by contacting Eric Mussen at firstname.lastname@example.org. WAS, open to all interested persons, is a non-profit educational organization, geared for small-scale beekeepers in the western United States.