- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It's a gathering of folks from both the almond and bee industries and beyond. See the agenda overview.
The late UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (1944-2022), based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, was heavily involved in honey bee health issues in the almond industry even after he retired as emeritus in 2014. He shared his expertise with the almond industry, spoke at their conferences and always looked forward to almond pollination season, which usually begins around Feb. 14.
ABC is a self-described "leader in the honey bee health conversation, partnering with more than 20 organizations to support bee health including universities, government agencies, nonprofits and beekeeping groups." That includes the University of California, Davis.
It's not just bees--or the lack of bees--that ABC worries about. Pests such as leaffooted bugs and brown marmorated stink bugs draw their ire. UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jhalendra Rijal and two colleagues, writing in a 2021 edition of the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, wrote about the "Biology, Ecology and Management of Hemipteran Pests in Almond Orchards in the United States."
Scores of university scientists work with ABC on various pests, including UC Davis distinguished professor and researcher Frank Zalom of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's an Honorary Member of the Entomological Association of America, (the highest ESA honor), and a past president of the 7000-member organization.
Regarding honey bees, ABC engages with universities, government agencies, nonprofits, and others "to ensure that honey bees are happy, healthy, and safe while they visit almond orchards," according to its website. The organization posted this in 2018: "Since honey bee health was made a strategic research priority of Almond Board of California (ABC) in 1995, the California Almond community has committed $2.6 million through 113 research projects to address the five major factors impacting honey bee health--varroa mites, pest and disease management, genetic diversity, pesticide exposure, and access to forage and nutrition. The California Almond community has funded more honey bee health research than any other crop group, and in 2017, six new bee research studies were funded, with a commitment of nearly $300,000 to improving honey bee health."
ABC established Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California Almonds to "provide key recommendations to everyone involved in the pollination process, from the beekeeper to the almond farmer and everyone in between, to make the orchard a safe and welcoming place for honey bees, while balancing the need to protect the developing crop."
"The Bee BMPs have garnered praise from leading bee health experts such as University of California, Davis Apiculturist Emeritus Dr. Eric Mussen and been held up as an example for other crops to follow."
In 2014, Mussen received a plaque, with an engraved clock, from ABC for 38 years of service. In presenting him with the coveted award, Robert "Bob" Curtis, then associate director of Agricultural Affairs, ABC, said: "Eric, we honor your service as a Cooperative Extension Apicultural Specialist. Your leadership has been invaluable to both the almond and beekeeping communities as the authoritative and trusted source for guidance on research, technical, and practical problem solving and issues facing both industries. Even now in your retirement you have been instrumental in the development of Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds and extending this information to all pollination stakeholders."
During his years as a Extension apiculturist, Mussen served as a university liaison, Scientific Advisory Board member, reviewer of research proposals and a designated speaker (representative).
A Celebration of Life is planned for 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 in the Putah Creek Lodge, UC Davis campus. The registration has closed, but a live webinar will be produced by UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the Department of Entomology. Registration is underway here at https://bit.ly/3czl5Am. It also will be on YouTube.
Family and friends suggest memorial contributions be made to the California State 4-H Beekeeping Program, with a note, "Eric Mussen Memorial Fund." Mary Ciriceillo, director of development for the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, said checks may be made out to the California 4-H Foundation and mailed to: