Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the University of California, Davis, and her lab are planning three classes this fall:
- “Varroa Mite Management Strategies” on Friday, Sept. 22;
- “Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” on Saturday, Oct. 7; and
- “Queen Rearing Basics” on Friday, Oct. 20.
All are one-day short courses to be taught by Elina Niño and staff research associate Bernardo Niño from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, located on 1 Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. The site is located west of the central campus.
Each course will be limited to 25 participants, who are asked to bring their own bee suit or veil, if they have one.
Varroa Mite Management Strategies, Friday, Sept. 22: Current beekeeping challenges call for all beekeepers to have a solid understanding of varroa mite biology and management approaches, they 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 $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.
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. Scheduled to assist with the course are lab members Charley Nye, manager of the Laidlaw facility, and graduate student Tricia Bohls.
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. 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 those 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.
Elina Lastro 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 Niño 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 Niño, whose master's degree involved 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 at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/. She writes a newsletter, UC Davis Apiculture, linked on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology home page. The Niño lab Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/
Course instructors are Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño; staff research associate Bernardo Niño; facility manager/staff research associate Charley Nye; and graduate student Tricia Bohls. All courses, open to the public, will be taught at the Laidlaw facility, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the UC Davis central campus.
The courses are:
“Planning Ahead for Your First Hive”: A short course on Saturday, Feb. 13 for those with little or no beekeeping experience;
“Working Your Colonies”: A short course on Saturday, Feb. 20 for novice beekeepers, or those who already have a colony and want to develop more skills; and
“Queen-Rearing Techniques” with two separate sessions: Saturday and Sunday, March 12-13 and Saturday and Sunday, March 19-20. This course is for beekeepers who want to learn how to rear their own queens or learn bee breeding.
“Planning Ahead for Your First Hives”: This Feb. 13th course will include lectures and hands-on exercises. “This course is perfect for those who have little or no beekeeping experience and who 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,” said Elina Niño. Lectures will cover honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to start your colony, and maladies of the hive. Hands-on exercises will cover how to build a hive, how to install a package, how to inspect your hive, and how to monitor for varroa mites. Participants will learn what is necessary to get the colony started and keep it healthy and thriving, she said. By the end of the course, participants will be knowledgeable about installing honey bee packages, monitoring their own colonies and maintaining a healthy colony. The $95 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a hive tool), lunch, and refreshments.
“Working Your Colonies”: This Feb. 20th course is for novice beekeepers who already have a colony and/or have taken a previous course, and seek to develop their skills. The afternoon will be spent entirely in the apiary with hands-on activities and demonstrations. Lectures will cover: maladies and biology review, products of the hive, and troubleshooting problems in the colony. Hands-on information will encompass colony evaluations, monitoring and managing pests, feeding your colony, and honey extraction.By the end of the course, participants will be knowledgeable about evaluating colonies, solving common beekeeping problems, extracting honey and wax, trapping pollen and propolis, and treating colonies for pests, the instructors said. The $150 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch, and refreshments.
“Queen-Rearing Techniques”: Each of the two sessions, March 12-13 and March 19-20, will include lectures, hands-on exercises. Topics will include honey bee queen biology, basics of selective honey bee breeding programs, various queen-rearing techniques, testing hygienic behavior, and assessing varroa mite levels.
Participants will have the opportunity to learn about and practice multiple methods for queen rearing. “We will go through a step-by-step process for queen rearing via grafting, including setting up cell builders and mating nucs,” Elina Niño said. At the end of the course, participants will be able to check their grafting success and local participants can take home queen cells from the workshop. They also will learn techniques to assess varroa mite loads and to evaluate hygienic behavior. Each session also will include a guided tour of the adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden that attracts many pollinators and is filled with art from the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Project and entomology/art classes taught by Diane Ullman and Donna Billick.
The $350 registration fee for each queen-rearing session covers the cost of course materials (including a set of grafting equipment: grafting frame with bars, plastic queen cups and a grafting tool), breakfast, lunch and refreshments on the days of the short course.
All participants in the Feb. 13-March 20 courses should bring their own bee suits or veils. They are also responsible for obtaining their own lodging. See map for directions. For more information, contact Bernardo Niño at email@example.com or call 530-380-BUZZ (2899).
Niño, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology on Sept. 1 from Pennsylvania State University—2600 miles away--is as busy as the proverbial worker bee during a colony's spring buildup as she settles into her new position involving research, education and outreach.
“California is a good place to bee,” she said. “I just wish I could have brought some of that Pennsylvania rain with me to help out California's drought.” Now she is looking forward to the almond pollination season, which brings some 1.5 million colonies from all over the country to California's almond orchards.
Niño operates her field lab at Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road and at her campus lab in Briggs Hall, on the central campus. Her aims: to conduct practical, problem-solving research projects; to support the state's beekeepers through research, extension and outreach; and to address beekeeper and industry concerns.
Niño, who studies honey bee biology, health, reproduction, pollination biology, insect ecology, evolution, genomics and chemical ecology, and genomics, replaces Eric Mussen, who retired in June 30 after 38 years of service. “Elina is a very accomplished scientist,” said Mussen. “Her research involves the reproductive processes involved in queen bee mating, including the impacts of oviduct manipulation, insemination volume and insemination substances. The induced changes include measurable behavioral, physiological and molecular alterations that occur, including differences in behavioral interactions between queens and worker bees.”
Niño has already met with many of the state's beekeepers, attended meetings of the California State Beekeepers' Association, the California Bee Breeders' Association, and the Almond Board of California, and charmed youngsters from the California School of the Blind, Fremont who asked many questions about honey bees.
“I love meeting people,” she said. She delights in answering questions, including those from inquisitive school children.
One of the most common questions: “Do you get stung?” Answer: “Yes, many times.”
Some don't know that all worker bees are females, that they do all the work. They are fascinated with the queen bee, which can lay as many as 2000 eggs a day during peak season. Once a youngster, thinking about the queen bee, asked: “What happened to the king?”
Bees are in a global decline due to pesticides, parasites, pests, malnutrition and stress. Niño says most people have heard of colony collapse disorder, and many know that the average beekeeper loses approximately 30 percent of the colonies each winter due to the combined effect of various pests, pathogens, environmental toxins, and poor nutrition.
“My research and extension goals are to provide stakeholders with practical tools that better equip them to confront these challenges. My primary research focus is to characterize biological factors that regulate honey bee queen reproduction. By better understanding these factors, we can improve the honey bee breeding protocols necessary for creating and maintaining resilient honey bee stock.”
Elina Niño wasn't always so devoted to bees. Born and reared in Bosnia in Eastern Europe, Elina moved to the United States with plans to become a veterinarian. She obtained her bachelor's degree in animal science at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., but while there, enrolled in an entomology class on the recommendation of her advisor. “I was hooked,” she recalled.
Following her graduation from Cornell in 2003, she received her master's degree in entomology from North Carolina State University and her doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University. While at Penn State, she sought to add to her applied-research expertise and gain experience in basic research. She joined the honey bee lab of Christina Grozinger, who studies the genomics of chemical communication and collaborates with researcher David Tarpy on understanding queen bee post-mating changes.
After attending her first lab meeting, “I was hooked again!” Niño recalled.
She and her fellow researchers confirmed that carbon dioxide causes queens to stop attempting mating flights and helps them start producing eggs. They also found that instrumental insemination triggers changes in Dufour's gland pheromone. Understanding the regulation of reproductive processes can lead to better management practices for improved colony productivity and health, Niño said.
Niño is now settled in Davis with her husband, Bernardo Niño, a former senior research technologist in the Grozinger lab and now a staff research associate at the Laidlaw facility; their toddler son, Sebastian; and their dog, a Doberman named Zoe.
Bernardo, who managed some 40 to 50 colonies at Penn State, received his bachelor's degree in biology from St. Edward's University, Austin, Texas; and his master's degree in entomology from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
Elina is building up her research team, which includes Bernardo; and staff research associate Billy Synk and doctoral candidate W. Cameron Jasper of the Brian Johnson lab.
“We view ourselves as the liaison between the beekeepers and other relevant growers and the scientific community,” Elina said. “We are continuing research on queen mating and reproduction, especially considering the importance of Northern California beekeepers for the queen rearing and bee breeding enterprises.”
They will expand their work to include studies “crucial for supporting honey bee health.” Current collaborate work includes examining the effects of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, Deformed Wing Virus and Nosema gene expression regulation and longevity in workers. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie individual responses to specific honey bee pathogens, Elina said, “can lead to the implementation of appropriate beekeeping practices.”
“In the near future, we plan to contribute to the general understanding of synergistic effects of pesticides on honey bee health and collaborate on research evaluating alternative Varroa mite control.”
Her lab not only aims to conduct applied research that leads to practical solutions, but to alert the state's beekeepers about new research, and develop web-based educational tools. She write the bimonthly newsletter, “from the UC apiaries,” appearing on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's website. In addition, she will be serving on various advisory boards to allow “us to guide decision making and legislation based on the most up to date scientific information.”
How would she describe herself? “Like a rock. I don't get easily disturbed. There's not a lot that fazes me. I find a way to figure out a problem and find a solution.”
Now she and her “Bee” team--that is, Bernardo and Billy--are gearing up for their inaugural queen bee rearing short-course March 28-29 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is open to beekeepers with basic bee experience who want to learn more about rearing queens.
Another pending activity: she'll be judging the California 4-H Honey Bee Essay Contest, “Planting for Bees from Backyards and Up” (http://preservationofhoneybees.org/essays) next February. The contest closes Feb. 20.
“California is a good place to bee,” she reiterated.