The non-profit educational organization, geared for small-scale beekeepers in the western United States, is headed by president Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, of UC Davis.
WAS has already booked Kim Flottum of Medina, Ohio, editor of Bee Culture; Les Crowder of Austin, Texas, author of Top-Bar Beekeeping; Gene Brandi of Los Banos, president of the American Beekeeping Federation; Larry Connor of Kalamazoo, Mich., author and beekeeper; Rod Scarlett, executive director, Canadian Honey Council, and Slava Strogolov, chief executive officer of Strong Microbials Inc., Milwaukee.
- Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño will speak on “Impact of Varroa on Honey Bee Reproductive Castes): Where Will the Research Lead Us?” at at 8:30 a.m. The three reproductive castes are the queen and worker bee (female), and drone (male).
- Associate professor Brian Johnson will speak on “Geographical Distribution of Africanized Bees in California” at 9 a.m., He will show “the results of a genotyping study of bees caught from across California showing the current distribution of Africanized Honey Bees in our state."
- Distinguished emeritus professor Robbin Thorp, a native pollinator specialist, will discuss “Life Cycles of Commonly Encountered Native Bee Genera" at 10:30 a.m. He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
- Professor Neal Williams, a pollination ecologist, will discuss “Known and Potential of Native Bees in Crop Pollination” at 11 a.m.
Casey also will lead a tour of the haven at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. “The Haven is a unique outdoor museum designed to educate visitors about bees and the plants that support them," she says. "Tour participants will see some of our 85 bee and 200 plant species, learn about our outreach and research programs, and gain ideas for their own bee gardens." Other tours are to Mann Lake facility and Z Specialty Foods, both in Woodland.
On Friday, Sept. 8, Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen will moderate a panel on “Pesticide Toxicity Testing with Adult and Immature Honey Bees.” The panel will convene at 9:15 a.m. At 1:30 on Friday, assistant professor Rachel Vannette of UC Davis will discuss “Variation in Nectar Quality Influence Pollinator Foraging." She studies floral nectar chemistry and microbiology and examines how these characteristics of flowers mediate interactions between plants and pollinators
Other UC Davis highlights:
Honey Tasting: Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, UC Davis, will lead a moderated honey tasting at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The event is titled “Taste the Honey Flavors of the West: How Understanding the Nuances of your Honey Can Help You Market your Perfect Sweet.” Said Harris: "Basically I plan to discuss the diversity and life styles of non-Apis bees to show how different most are from honey bees."
Memories: The founders of WAS will discuss "how it all began" from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The organization, founded at UC Davis, was the brainchild of Norm Gary, then professor of apiculture (now emeritus), who served as the first WAS president. Assisting him in founding the organization were Eric Mussen, then an Extension apiculturist who was elected the first WAS vice president; and postdoctoral fellow Becky Westerdahl, now a nematologist in the department, who held the office of secretary-treasurer.
More information on the conference is available from the WAS website or contact Eric Mussen, serving his sixth term as president, at email@example.com. Registration is underway at http://www.westernapiculturalsociety.org/2017-conference-registration/
The poster competition, open to graduate students throughout the country, drew 14 posters that focused on bees and/or pollination. It is a traditional part of the symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The event took place in the UC Davis Conference Center.
Brand, who joined the Ramirez lab in 2013, received his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Dusseldorf, Germany, and then went on to pursue his master's degree there, studying the evolutionary history and the patterns of selection of olfactory receptor genes in a pair of sister lineages of euglossine bees.
"Pheromone communication has long been known to play a central role in the origin and evolution of species diversity throughout the tree of life," he wrote in the introduction on his poster. "What are the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms that control pheromone variation and signal detection?"
Other winners were:
- Second place, $750; Jacob Peters, Harvard University, “Self-Organization of Collective Nest Ventilation by Honey Bees”
- Third place, $500; John Mola, UC Davis, “Fire Induced Change in Flowering Phenology Benefits Bumble Bees"
- Fourth place, $250; Devon Picklum, University of Nevada, Reno, “Floral Visitation and pollen Deposition Bombus- Pollinated Dodecatheon Apinum and Pedicularis Groenlandica in the Sierra Nevada”
Judges were Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology; and two symposium speakers, keynote speaker Steve Sheppard, Thurber Professor of Entomology at Washington State University, Pullman, Wash, and Stacey Combes, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior.
Sheppard's address on “Bees, Mushrooms and Liquid Nitrogen… What?” reflected the broad spectrum of his research from expanding the genetic pool of honey bees to health-related aspects of mushroom slurry. Other speakers included Margaret Lombard, chief executive officer of the National Honey Board, and Maj Rundlof of Lund University, Sweden, an International Career Grant Fellow at UC Davis. Michael Karle discussed the new Food and Drug Administration rules concerning the use of antibiotics in bee colonies.
Another highlight of the symposium was the awards ceremony honoring the first class of apprentice-level master beekeepers from the UC Davis-based program. More than 50 apprentices received their first-level pins from instructors Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist, and apiarist Bernardo Niño.
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, and Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, chaired the event. Williams served as emcee.
The 2018 Bee Symposium will feature keynote speaker Thomas Seeley, the Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and author of the widely acclaimed book, Honey Bee Democracy.
Keynote speaker of the event, sponsored by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is Steve Sheppard, Thurber Professor of Apiculture and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University (WSU), Pullman, Wash.
Sheppard will speak at 9:45 a.m. on "Bees, Mushrooms and Liquid Nitrogen--What?" His research involves improving honey bee health through breeding and alternative treatment approaches. 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. He received his graduate degrees in entomology from the University of Illinois: his master's degree in 1979 and his doctorate in 1986. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beneficial Insects Laboratory from 1986 to 1988, and as a research entomologist at the USDA Bee Research Laboratory from 1988 to 1996 before joining the WSU faculty in 1996. He was named chair of the department in 2009.
The symposium will include speakers, displays of graduate student research posters, the latest in beekeeping equipment, books, honey, plants, "and much more," according to Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
Santiago Ramirez, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, will speak on "The Evolution and Chemical Ecology of Orchid Bees" at 10:45 a.m.
Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will introduce the apprentice-level California Master Beekeepers and present them with pins at 11:30. Niño coordinates the Master Beekeeper Program.
The graduate student poster presentations are at noon. The competition was open to all California university students engaged in pollinator-related research. Educational exhibits also will be spotlighted at noon.
The afternoon program includes a presentation at 1:30 p.m. on "Flowering Crops: A Tricky Treat for Bees" by researcher Maj Rundlöf, International Career Grant Fellow, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, followed by "The New FDA Rule on the Use of Antibiotics in Hives" at 2 p.m. by veterinarian Michael Karle of the Mid-Valley Veterinary Hospital, Oakland.
At 2:30 the fast-paced and popular "Lightning Round" will take place. Each presentation will be four to six minutes long and will be followed by a question-and-answer session, Harris said.
- "Bumble Bee Cognition in the Wild" by Felicity Muth, postdoctoral researcher, Department of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno
- "Habitat Planting for Bees," by the Neal Williams' lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
- "Optical Tagging of Bees to Track Individual Movements in colonies" by Stacey Combes, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior
- "Planet Bee: Citizen Bee Projects" by Debra Tomaszewski, executive director and co-founder of the Bay Area's Planet Bee Foundation
- "Plants and Pesticides: Keeping Bees Healthy with Ornamental Horticulture" by Christine Casey, program representative, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, UC Davis
The symposium ends with Margaret Lombard, chief executive officer of the National Honey Board, speaking at 3:45 p.m. on "Good as Gold: Growing Opportunities for the Small-Scale Honey Producer."
Winners of the Graduate Student Poster Competition will be announced at 4:15. Awards are first place, $1000; second place, $750; third, $500; and fourth, $250.
To register, access http://honey.ucdavis.edu/events/2017-bee-symposium. Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Williams will speak Feb. 28 on On-Farm Pollinator Benefits for Watermelon Pollination. Williams, an associate professor of pollination and biology and a Chancellor's Fellow, serves as the faculty co-director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and is a member of UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute. His applied research addresses the integration of wild and managed bees for pollination of diverse agricultural crops including seed production, row crops and orchards.
His research addresses a series of questions:
- Under what contexts, in terms of local management and landscape context, can native pollinators provide sufficient pollination for different crops?
- How can we enhance habitat and diversify agricultural systems to promote managed and wild bees?
- Do pollinators like honey bees and wild bees interact in ways to increase the overall effectiveness of crop pollination?
The answers to these questions help alleviate the stress placed on honey bees, Williams says, and also "inform ways to more sustainability manage agricultural systems to promote biodiversity and production."
Williams worked extensively in agro-ecosystems in California's Central Valley and in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. A continuing goal is to provide practical information that can be used to improve the long-term stability of pollination for agriculture in California, as well as promote pollinator conservation and management. His work in the East and West has helped form the basis for pollinator conservation planting guidelines.
All speakers will discuss their research, and engage with the audience, said webinar co-coordinator Katharina Ullmann, national crop pollination specialist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis (studying with major professor Neal Williams). Co-coordinator is Extension apiculturist and professor John Skinner of the University of Tennessee.
The webinar series will examine the role of wild bees, honey bees and other managed bees in supporting crop pollination and yield in almond, blueberry, tree fruit, pumpkin, and watermelon. Each webinar will be 45-60 minutes long, with time for questions and a discussion with the presenter. Each registered attendee will later receive a link to the slides.
"The majority of U.S. specialty crop growers depend on bees for pollination of their crops," Ullmann said. "Growers know that without adequate pollination, they would not be profitable. But what are the best pollination strategies for fruit, vegetable, and nut crops? What farm management practices can growers use to support bees and the crop pollination they provide?"
To register, attendees can click on each link:
- Jan. 24, 11 a.m., Pacific Time: Ensuring Almond Pollination (Theresa Pitts-Singer, USDA-ARS and Utah State University)
- Jan. 31, 11 a.m., Pacific Time: Pollinating Highbush Blueberries: Bees Bring Bigger Berries (Rufus Isaacs, Michigan State University)
- Feb. 14, 11 a.m., Pacific Time: Pollinating Apples and Cherries East of the Rockies (Julianna Wilson, Michigan State University)
- Feb. 28, 11 a.m., Pacific Time: On-Farm Pollinator Benefits for Watermelon Pollination (Neal Williams, University of California, Davis)
- March 21, 11 a.m., Pacific Time: Ensuring Pumpkin Pollination (Shelby Fleischer, Pennsylvania State University)
- March 28, 11 a.m., Pacific Time: How to Manage Solitary Orchard Bees for Crop Pollination (Theresa Pitts-Singer, USDA-ARS and Utah State University)
The webinar series will be hosted by eXtension.org, an online Cooperative Extension network. The webinars are free and open to the public and can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.
For more information about the webinar series, access the Bee Health eXtension.org website or email email@example.com. Funding for the webinar series will be provided by the Integrated Crop Pollination Project, a USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Grant (#2012-51181-20105). Plans are to offer continuing education credits for certified crop advisors.
As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, he enrolled in an introductory entomology class. “I remember seeing the research technician standing in and indoor flight cage, surrounded by bees,” Nye said. “They were flying from the hive to a feeder stand and completely ignoring her. We covered the long history of beekeeping in that class around that same time and I was just amazed at how much knowledge had been collected. I applied for a job and started working as an assistant to the research technician I saw that day that spring. I spent the next three summers working for the lab of Dr. Gene Robinson and learning as much as I could.”
He went on to spend eight years in Illinois working with the bees—three as an undergraduate assistant and five years as the facility manager and research technician. He joined UC Davis in December 2015.
“Adapting to the California ecosystem has been a bit of an adjustment,” Nye said. “A big part of beekeeping is understanding the ecosystem you live in. If you've got a bee yard that doesn't have a water source close, you may need to move water in during dry periods. Different flowers provide nectar and pollen at varying quantities, so being aware of what's going on in the environment can give you some insight into whether or not you might need to assist your bees with some sugar to make it until the next bloom. That has honestly been my favorite part of moving here, learning about all the trees and shrubs and wildflowers and when they bloom. It's a constant process through the year, and being my first year here it's been really enjoyable to watch the seasons progress."
Nye welcomes the worldwide interest in bees and the crucial role they play. “I think people are starting to understand the complex role bees play in our food system, and I hope in the future we could help educate people about how the agricultural system is helped by natural areas,” he said. “Here in the Central Valley, there is very little unused space. We are able to bring in honey bees on trucks from distant areas to pollinate our crops, but it's a very precarious system that we are relying on to make that work. Having some natural corridors for pollinators year round would really help increase the population of native bees, help the health of honey bees, and keep us from worrying about losing the delicate balance we are keeping between honey bees and agricultural production.”
"I think the general public's knowledge of bees has made amazing advances in recent years. The shortage of bees for agricultural purposes here in the Central Valley really brought beekeeping into the news, followed by a lot of documentaries and things that made people want to be beekeepers or at least plant pollinator friendly gardens. Lots of people bring up beekeeping documentaries they've seen, and I don't think beekeepers were experiencing that 20 years ago. Overall, I'm mostly impressed with the amount of bee related knowledge out in the world right now.
Myths and misconceptions about bees? Often people associate bees with stinging, and falsely claim they have an allergy. “I've been doing this long enough that I don't laugh at people when they tell me they are allergic, but I think people don't completely understand what allergic means,” he said. “Only one or two people out of 1000 are actually allergic and have a life threatening reaction--most people just experience pain and swelling. I try to point out to people that when it hurts and makes their hand swell up, that might not mean they have a bee allergy, but most of the time I just nod my head and move on. I worked a booth at a local fair and half my conversations were people telling me they were allergic because it hurt. I get stung every day, and I can attest that at no point does it stop hurting.”
Nye divides his time with the labs of Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, pollination ecologist Neal Williams, and Brian Johnson, who studies the behavior, evolution and genetics of honey bees. “My responsibilities are pretty spread out,” he said. “The majority of my time is spent keeping the bees healthy enough for experiments.” In peak season, “it's pretty common to just have a few weeks' notice that we need any number of healthy full sized colonies, and like other animals, you can't grow a calf to a full sized cow with any magic tricks, so we try to buffer that by keeping a tight schedule for disease monitoring and making sure all our colonies are as robust as possible.”
What does he like the best about his job? The least?
"My job has a great balance between working out in a natural setting going through bee hives, and coming back to the lab and getting involved in research," he said. "I think doing either one of them by themselves would get a little tedious for me, so I feel really lucky to be able to split myself between the two. The least? It might be kind of a strange complaint, but foxtails. I spend a lot of time walking through tall grass and those foxtails burrow into my shoes and make me crazy. And I'm told I have to worry about them going up my dog's nose? I would say it's an urban myth but the seeds ability to get into my shoe and under my sock is practically magic."
(Editor's Note: For a list of the 2017 apiculture courses that the Niño lab is offering and teaching, see this page.)