As the predominantly red-and-green holiday season draws to a close, and the year crawls to an end, it's time to "bee in the pink."
Yes, "in the pink."
Skip the red. Ignore the green. Think "in the pink."
"In the pink" means to be in top form, in peak condition, in the best of health, and that's a good resolution for the New Year. (Not to mention every day of every year.)
And, if you keep bees, let's hope your bees will be "in the pink," too. Want to learn to about beekeeping? Contact the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program.
Happy New Year!
Not the honey bee, not the carpenter bee, not the bumble bee, not the cuckoo bee and not any of the other assorted bees minding their own bees-ness in the meadow.
You're not yellow, you're not fuzzy, you're not social and you're just not certain.
Makes you wonder if you're having an identity crisis, right?
Bee scientist Felicity Muth, an assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas, Austin, sets the record straight in her charming book, "Am I Even a Bee?," illustrated by Alexa Lindauer. It's a children's picture book, but let's face it, we're all children at heart, and everyone likes to feel appreciated. We all want to belong.
Fact is, there are more than 20,000 known species of bees in the world and about 4000 of them are native to the United States. California alone has 1600 species. The smallest known bee is the solitary bee, Perdita minima, about 2mm long. The largest bee in California is the Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa sonorina, which measures about an inch long.
Yet the non-native honey bee, a social bee, grabs all the attention and little Osmia, a solitary bee, wonders if she's even a bee.
With the help of her friend, Xylocopa, nicknamed "Xyla," Osmia discovers that (1) yes, she is indeed a bee (2) yes, she's a pollinator and (3) yes, she's important to our ecosystem.
It's good to see Felicity Muth spreading the word about the diversity of bees, and why, in the process, it's crucial to protect them.
Like human beings, bees come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Some are specialists, such as the squash bee, which pollinates only squash and other members of the cucurbits family. Some are generalists, like the honey bee.
In her real (academic) life, Muth works with commercial and wild bees (bumble bees, mason bees, and squash bees) "using experimental approaches to investigate questions in animal behavior and cognition from an ecological perspective...we also address anthropogenic effects on bee cognition, behavior an health."
Muth delivered a presentation on her book at the Entomological Society of America's joint meeting (with the Entomological Societies of Canada and British Columbia), held last month in Vancouver, B.C.
Muth knows science writing and science communication: her credits include publishing her work in Scientific American and being interviewed on National Public Radio's Science Friday. She holds a doctorate (2012) in animal behavior and cognition from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She discovered her passion for bees as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona and the University of Nevada, Reno.
"Am I Even a Bee?" is a book you'll want to place in a prominent place in your library--let your "Zoom" audience see it on your shelf. Then, re-read it when you, as Osmia, think others (honey bees) are getting all the recognition, respect and admiration while you're being ignored. In fact, as U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) says on its website: "Native bees are the primary insect pollinator of agricultural plants in most of the country. Crops that they pollinate include squash, tomatoes, cherries, blueberries, and cranberries. Native bees were here long before European honeybees were brought to the country by settlers (honeybees are not native to North America). Honeybees are key to a few crops such as almonds and lemons, but native bees like the blue orchard bees (Osmia) are better and more efficient pollinators of many crops, including those plants that evolved in the Americas. Native bees are estimated to pollinate 80 percent of flowering plants around the world."
Meanwhile, let's take a look at the diversity of bees in these images below, mostly taken in Vacaville, Calif. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors.
What's not to like about a bee?
It's Thanksgiving Day, and as we sit down with family and friends to count our blessings, let's thank the bees.
If your table includes pumpkin, cranberries, carrots, cucumbers, onions, apples, oranges, cherries, blueberries, grapefruit, persimmons, pomegranates, pears, sunflower seeds, and almonds, praise the bees for their pollination services.
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are generalists, while the squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa) are specialists that pollinate only the cucurbits or squash family, Cucurbitaceae.
And don't forget the spices. Honey bees visit the plants that eventually comprise our spices, including sage, basil, oregano and thyme.
Ready for dessert? Ice cream? Even milk and ice cream are closely linked to the honey bee. Cows feed on alfalfa, which is pollinated by honey bees (along with other bees).
The Paleolithic rock art depicts a person smoking a beehive. Also quite visible: the honeycomb and the bees. "The keeping of bees" dates back to 10,000 years ago when humans began maintaining colonies of wild bees in such artificial hives as hollow logs, wooden boxes, pottery vessels, or woven straw baskets (skeps), according to Wikipedia.
Mussen never talked much about the rock art or where he got it, but a quick TinEye reverse image search indicates the original apparently belongs to the International Bee Research Association (IBRA), which "promotes the value of bees by providing information on bee science and beekeeping worldwide."
The same image of the rock art appears in Eva Crane's book, "The Rock Art of Honey Hunters," published by IBRA in 2011. Then behavioral ecologist and nutrititional anthroplogist Alyssa Crittenden of the University of Nevada published "The Importance of Honey Consumption in Human Evolution" in December 2011 in the journal Food and Foodways, and used the same image (see ResearchGate).
The Crittenden abstract: "It has been suggested that honey may have been an important food source for early members of the genus Homo, yet the importance of meat and savanna plant foods continue to be stressed as the most relevant foods in dietary reconstructions. Here, the importance of honey and bee larvae in hominin diets is explored. Ethnographic reports, examples of Paleolithic rock art, and evidence from non-human primates are used to show that early hominins likely targeted beehives using the Oldowan tool kit. The consumption of honey and bee larvae likely provided significant amounts of energy, supplementing meat and plant foods. The ability to find and exploit beehives using stone tools may have been an innovation that allowed early Homo to nutritionally out-compete other species and may have provided critical energy to fuel the enlarging hominin brain."
The Smithsonian magazine's piece on "Humans, the Honey Hunters: Energy-Rich Honey May Have Helped Hominids Evolve Big Brains," published Dec. 19, 2011, also includes the illustration. Author Erin Wayman wrote that Crittenden considers honey a super food. "It's very energy dense, about 80 to 95 percent sugar, and it's a good source of the glucose needed to nurture brain development," Wayman wrote. "Wild honey also contains traces of bee larvae, adding fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. And on top of that, it's easy to digest. The nutritional benefits of honey are clear, but there is no concrete evidence in the fossil record of hominids eating honey; honey consumption doesn't leave behind the kind of scraps that can fossilize the way that hunting and butchering does. So Crittenden relies on some indirect clues to bolster her argument." (See more here.)
Eric considered "starthistle honey" his favorite honey varietal. If he were still with us, he'd be attending The HIVE's big anniversary party on Saturday, Nov. 12. It will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 1221 Harter Ave., Woodland.
HIVE Public Celebration. "We're celebrating 43 years in business as Z Specialty Food and the completion of our first year in our new home, The HIVE," Amina Harris, the Queen Bee of Z Specialty Food, wrote us in a Nov. 1 email. "This celebratory event includes a full schedule of interactive activities. Guests will learn how to taste honey and mead (honey wine), participate in tours of our production facility and pollinator gardens and relax in the courtyard while listening to live music from Royal Jelly Jive, The Gold Souls and Nathan Ignacio. For more information, visit our website: here."
Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, worked closely with Mussen. She wrote this about him in her tribute: "When I first came to California in the early 1980s, I was working with my husband establishing and growing a varietal honey company. One of the first people I met at UC Davis was Eric Mussen, the state apiculturist. Eric was someone who had a lot of answers to a lot of questions! Ever the educator, Eric was well versed in all of the issues of the bee world and readily shared his knowledge with any and everyone who asked. His answers were always down to earth and understandable, with his wry Midwestern sense of humor running underneath. You'd ask a question – and you always got an answer!"
Amina's husband, Ishai Zeldner, who died in 2018 at age 71, founded Z Specialty Food. Like Amina, Ishai was close friends with Eric Mussen.
And just like Eric, Ishai favored the honey varietal, starthistle./span>
Then you'll want to attend--or listen via Zoom--the next seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Nissa Coit, a master's graduate student in the laboratory of Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will present her exit seminar on "Effects of Ethyl Oleate Pheromone on Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)" at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 28.
She will deliver her seminar in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus, and virtually on Zoom. The link:
"In winter, honey bees undergo a transition to a diutinus state, during which time brood rearing declines or stops entirely, and worker bees live for up to 20 weeks," Coit says in her abstract. "The mechanism, causes, and geographic prevalence of this transition are unknown, and can make managing honey bees in certain regions challenging. We hypothesized that the transition to overwintering is regulated by the forager pheromone, ethyl oleate, when forager bees are relegated to the hive for longer periods of time during poor weather conditions. We exposed bees of different ages and tasks to ethyl oleate and measured accepted markers of overwintering. Our findings indicate ethyl oleate may affect the efficiency of metabolism of protein into fat stores, allowing young bees to prepare for suboptimal conditions. Ethyl oleate, when concomitant with other factors such as gradual decline in brood pheromone, pollen dearth, cold temperatures, and photoperiod, may contribute to the transition to overwintering."
She received her master's degree from UC Davis on Sept. 9, and is currently working and living in Vermont. "I work at Sterling College, where I am teaching entomology, ecology, biology, and apiculture in the undergraduate program, as well as developing course materials for the continuing education department in a variety of subjects such as water management, agroecology, pest management, and sustainable agriculture and food systems."
Her biography on the Niño website includes: "She was founder and president of the Carolina Beekeeping Club, whose efforts recently succeeded in making UNC, a Bee Campus USA. She first became interested in honey bees in high school while taking a summer class at Cornell. In college, she began volunteering at the NC State University Honey Bee Research Laboratory to gain more experience with bees. Since then, she has also worked at NC State as a research technician and conducted her own research on pheromone variation of brood and queens among different stocks of bees."
Coit studied abroad at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, in 2017, from July to November.
Emily Meineke, assistant professor of urban landscape entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, coordinates the department's seminars for the 2022-23 academic year. All 11 seminars will take place both person and virtually at 4:10 p.m. on Wednesdays in Room 122 of Briggs Hall except for the Nov. 9th and Dec. 7th seminars, which will be virtual only, she said. (See list of seminars)
For further information on the seminars or technical difficulties with Zoom, contact Meineke at firstname.lastname@example.org.