Christmas in May?
When it's in full bloom, the aptly named "tower of jewels," Echium wildpretii, which can tower as high as 10 feet, looks very much like a Christmas tree. Think of the brilliant red blossoms as red bells.
Native to the island of Tenerife, it belongs to the family Boraginaceae. It's a biennial, meaning that it takes two growing seasons to complete its life cycle. In the Vacaville, Calif., area, it blooms in its second year, around mid-April and diminishes by mid-May.
Honey bees love its nectar and pollen. And the pollen? It's blue, which is always a surprise when beekeepers open their hives. "Where did that blue come from?"
Scilla sibirica (wood squill) and Epilobium angustifolium (fireweed) also yield blue pollen as does Gilia tricolor (bird's eye). Borage pollen is a bluish-gray.
"The importance of pollen to the health and vigor of the honey bee colony cannot be overstated," writes emeritus entomology professor Norman Gary of the University of California, Davis, in his best-selling book, "Honey Bee Hobbyist, The Care and Keeping of Bees."
"Honey satisfies the bees' carbohydrate requirements, while all of the other nutrients---minerals, proteins, vitamins and fatty substances--are derived from pollen. Nurse bees consume large amounts of pollen, converting it into nutritious secretions that are fed to developing larvae. During an entire year, a typical bee colony gathers and consumes about 77 pounds of pollen."
Gary adds: "Pollen in the plant world is the equivalent of sperm in the animal world. Fertilization and growth of seeds depends upon the transfer of pollen from the male flower parts (anthers) to the receptive female parts (stigmas)."
Honey bee experts at UC Davis and Oregon State University (OSU) will teach the comprehensive, asynchronous course, "Honey Bees and Beekeeping for Veterinarians." Registration is now underway at http://www.wifss.ucdavis.edu/beevets/. The course is intended for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, apiculture educators, apiary inspectors and beekeepers in California and Oregon. Participants are encouraged to register today; the course will be available only until June 30, 2020.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) addresses antibiotic resistance and antimicrobial use in the feed or water of food-producing animals. The VFD implementation aims to ensure the judicious use of antimicrobials, and to minimize the impact of their use in colonies.
This means that beekeepers now need to establish a veterinarian-client-patient relationship to obtain the antibiotics they need to manage foulbrood and other microbial diseases, according to the course instructors.
The training is being offered by the laboratory of Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; and OSU.
Course authors and developers are the Western Institute for Food and Security (WIFSS), UC Davis; Elina Niño and Bernardo Niño; Jonathan Dear, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Ramesh Saglii, OSU's Honey Bee Laboratory.
Instructors said that participants, upon completion of the course, will be able to:
- Describe the importance of honey bees
- Explain the veterinarian's role in commercial beekeeping
- Recognize distinguished characteristics of honey bees
- Recognize specialized beekeeping equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Recognize the components of a hive inspection
- Describe honey bee immunity against pathogens, pests and diseases
- Describe common pests and diseases that may impact honey bees
- Describe how the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) governs the use of antimicrobial drugs in apiculture
Honey bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of the American diet. They pollinate such specialty crops as apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, and almonds. However, annual honey bee colony losses are high due to a variety of environmental and biological causes, including bacterial diseases. Historically, beekeepers have self-prescribed antibiotics to control these diseases.
Funding for the development of the “Honey Bees and Beekeeping for Veterinarians” course was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Multi-State Program through an agreement between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and The Regents of the University of California, Davis (agreement number 17-0727-001-SF).
That's a crucial question, especially with California's history and future of disastrous wildfires. Last year was the state's worst fire season ever: 9,639 fires burned 4.3 million acres or more than 4 percent of the state's roughly 100 million acres of land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Enter bee biologist Lauren Ponisio, a native of California's Central Valley who is now an assistant professor at the University of Oregon, Eugene. She will address a webinar hosted from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Friday, May 28 by the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD).
Also billed are Anne-Marie Bentz of the California California Native Plant Society, who will present information on how to create fire-wise, pollinator-friendly gardens, and Don Hankins, professor of geography and planning at California State University, Chico, who will discuss traditional burning and pollinators. Hankins, UC Davis-educated, holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife, fish and conservation biology and a doctorate in geography from UC Davis.
"Fire has a major impact on the structure and function of many ecosystems globally," according to Ponisio and her colleagues in their 2016 published research, "Pyrodiversity Begets Plant-Pollinator Community Diversity in Global Change Biology.
"Pyrodiversity, the diversity of fires within a region (where diversity is based on fire characteristics such as extent, severity, and frequency), has been hypothesized to promote biodiversity, but changing climate and land management practices have eroded pyrodiversity," they wrote in their abstract. "To assess whether changes in pyrodiversity will have impacts on ecological communities, we must first understand the mechanisms that might enable pyrodiversity to sustain biodiversity, and how such changes might interact with other disturbances such as drought."
"Focusing on plant–pollinator communities in mixed-conifer forest with frequent fire in Yosemite National Park, California, we examine how pyrodiversity, combined with drought intensity, influences those communities. We find that pyrodiversity is positively related to the richness of the pollinators, flowering plants, and plant–pollinator interactions. On average, a 5% increase in pyrodiversity led to the gain of approximately one pollinator and one flowering plant species and nearly two interactions."
Ponisio holds two degrees from Stanford University: her bachelor's degree in biology with honors in ecology and evolution, 2010, and her master's in biology in 2011. She received her doctorate in 2016 from the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. Ponisio served as a Moore/Sloan Data Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the Berkeley Institute of Science from 2016 to 2017, before joining the UC Riverside Department of Entomology as an assistant professor in 2017. She accepted her current position with the University of Oregon's Department of Biology in 2020.
Ponisio was featured July 20, 2020 in People Behind the Science Podcast, Working to Preserrve and Restore Populations of Bees and Other Pollinators: "The United States is home to thousands of different species of native bees that are important for agriculture and natural ecosystems. Lauren's research revolves around preserving and restoring bee populations in agricultural areas and other natural habitats. She is interested in understanding the distribution and health of different populations of native bees."
The May 28 Zoom webinar connection: https://bit.ly/3y6th18.
Or One tap mobile:
+16699006833,,85014402893# US (San Jose)
+13462487799,,85014402893# US (Houston)
Webinar ID: 850 1440 2893
If a queen bee were to celebrate Mother's Day (and she won't because she's too busy laying eggs), what a crowded festivity that would be.
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of Washington State University, former manager of the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, describes the queen as an "egg-laying machine."
"She's the mother of all the bees in the hive," saysCobey, who studied at UC Davis with Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr., (1907-2003), "the father of honey bee genetics." During the peak season, the queen can lay up to 2000 eggs a day. That amounts to about 50,000 to 80,000 workers (sterile females) and 1000 to 2000 drones (males) in the hive.
On her maiden flight, the queen bee mates with some 12 to 25 drones in mid-air and then she heads back to the hive to lay eggs for the rest of her life, says Cobey, internationally renowned for her Carniolan bees and classes on instrumental insemination and bee breeding (stock improvement).
Yes, every bee in the hive has the same mother. Not so with the fathers.
In his book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist, the Care and Keeping of Bees, Norman "Norm" Gary, UC Davis emeritus professor of apiculture, writes: "All bees in a colony develop from eggs laid by the queen, so they all share the same mother. All bees in a colony develop from eggs laid by the queen, so they all share the same mother. But as a population, they typically have around 15 fathers."
As Gary points out: "The queen bee has no control over the drones that inseminate her. (The virgin queen) mates while flying, never inside the hive."
It's a matriarchal society. The girls (worker bees) do all the work; they serve as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers. So their abbreviated life (during the summer the life span of a worker bee is only four to six weeks) is not surprising. The drones, or males, serve only a reproductive function. Once they they mate, they die.
Honey bee geneticist Robert E. Page Jr., distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis (and emeritus provost, Arizona State University) studied with Laidlaw for his doctorate at UC Davis. He pays tribute to Laidlaw in his book, The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment from Landscapes to Societies.
In Chapter Nine, "The Song of the Queen," Page reprinted a poem by E. B. White (Dec. 15, The New Yorker) objecting to instrumental insemination. White opined in the poem that the queen bee should "mate with whatever drone" she encounters.
Page reprinted Laidlaw's response, published in the San Francisco Chronicle, which said in part:
Her offspring slave throughout the day,
They feed her children as best they may
They would like to see a moment
Directed toward stock improvement.
If you're interested in bees and beekeeping, or just curious about these amazing superorganisms, these books read well on Mother's Day...and any other day./span>
They're known for their creativity.
What they do, however, does not involve correcting social injustices, breaking ceilings in workplaces or pushing the latest fashions, as the descriptive adjectives might indicate.
It has everything to do with making award-winning mead or honey wine.
The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon each day.
"This course is for anyone who has experience making mead and wants to take their craft to the next level," says Amina Harris, director of Honey and Pollination Center, affiliated with the UC Davis Mondavi Institute and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
- Jeff Herbert, Superstition Meadery (Prescott, Ariz.)
- Carvin Wilson, a vocational meadmaker and mead promoter extraordinaire (Phoenix, Ariz.)
- Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor, Kookoolan Farms and Kookoolan World Meadery, and author of The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing" (Yamhill, Ore.)
- Pete Bakulic, director of the Mazer Cup International Mead Competition and mead consultant
- Billy Beltz, owner of Lost Cause Meadery (San Diego.)
- Michelle and Jeremy Kyncl, owners of Hierophant Meadery (Mead, Wash.)
Yes, you read that last line right. Mead makers Michelle and Jeremy Kynci of Mead. You can sip mead in Mead at their Green Bluff Tasting Room. Mead is an unincorporated suburb north of Spokane, population under 8000, according to the 2010 Census. It was NOT named for honey wine but for Civil War Army General "Old Snapping Turtle" George Meade, 1815-1873, known for defeating Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. His name lives on despite an "e" that went MIA.
Curious what Hierophant means? As the owners say on their website: "The Hierophant is generally described as 'one who reveals/shows what is sacred or holy.' We believe that the honey bee should be revered as such, as the declining population of honey bees and wild pollinators most certainly reveal to us that change is needed in the way things are done in our food system. We therefore depicted the honey bee as the Hierophant by adding a kabbalistic tree of life in our logo representation. This tree of life symbol is associated with the Hierophant."
The last day to register for the UC Davis course (the fee for the two-day course is $275) is Wednesday, May 12. Register here. You can contact Elizabeth Luu, marketing and events manager, at email@example.com for more information.