- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Yes, honey bees have six feet, and that's the title of a keynote speech to be presented May 9 at the University of California, Davis by Distinguished McKnight Professor and 2010 MacArthur Fellow Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota.
To take place in the UC Davis Conference Center, the daylong symposium on "Keeping Bees Healthy" will be hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Registration is now underway for the 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. event.
“This educational program is designed for beekeepers of all experience levels, including gardeners, farmers and anyone interested in the world of pollination and bees,” said Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center. “In addition to our speakers, there will be an active ‘Buzz Way' featuring graduate student research posters, the latest in beekeeping equipment, books, honey, plants and much more.”
Among the speakers will be honey bee scientists Brian Johnson and Elina Lastro Niño and native bee scientist Neal Williams, all with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and bee molecular scientist Amy Toth of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames Iowa. Also planned is a tour of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Center on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Bee garden manager Christine Casey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will lead the tour.
General admission is $75 and student admission is $25. Both include a continental breakfast, lunch and post-event reception. For registration, access this page. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation is providing financial support.
As for Marla Spivak, back in 2010 she was named a recipient of the $500,000 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, often referred to as a "genius award."
Nearly two million people have accessed her TED talk at which she comments on the "big bee bummer that we have created," why we should care about bees, and how we, as individuals can help them. Honey bees, she says, have thrived for 50 million years, but in the last seven years, the bee population is declining rapidly. On the average, beekeepers report losing 30 percent of their winter bees. They don't make it to spring.
"We can't afford to lose bees, so what is going on?" Spivak asks. In 1945, the U.S. honey bee population stood at 4.5 million colonies in 1945. Today it's about 2 million.
In her TED talk, Spivak expresses deep concern about bee health and calls attention to what she calls "the multiple, interacting causes of death: diseases, parasites, pesticides, monocultures and flowerless landscapes." She sprinkles in such colorful words as "flower feeders," "agricultural food deserts," "bee social healthcare system" and "tomato ticklers" (referring to the buzz pollination of bumble bees on tomatoes).