It was the third day of the Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference, and Oliver was there to show beekeepers how to determine the levels of Nosema or Varroa mite infection in their hives. He brought along his microscope, his four decades worth of beekeeping experience, and his humor.
His credentials: He owns and operates a small commercial beekeeping enterprise in the foothills of Grass Valley, Northern California. He and his two sons manage approximately 1000 colonies for migratory pollination, and they produce queens, nucs and honey.
Oliver holds two university degrees (BS) and master's (MS), specializing in entomology.
He is an avid scientist. He researches, analyzes and digests beekeeping information from all over the world in order not only to broaden his own depth of understanding and knowledge, but to develop practical solutions to many of today's beekeeping problems. He then shares that information with other beekeepers through his bee journal articles, worldwide speaking engagements and on his website, www.scientificbeekeeping.com. Oliver says on his website, "This is not a 'How You Should Keep Bees' site; rather, I'm a proponent of 'Whatever Works for You' beekeeping." He is never without a research project; he collaborates with the nation's leading bee scientists, and is a stickler for data. "I'm a 'data over dogma' guy, and I implore my readers to correct me on any information at this website that is out of date or not supported by evidence."
But back to his presentation. Got bees? Yes.
Oliver calmly reached into a hive and brought out a handful of nurse bees (the foragers were out foraging) as Sonoma County Beekeepers' Association newsletter editor Ettamarie Peterson watched. A longtime beekeeper and 4-H leader, she owns Peterson's Farm, Petaluma, a certified bee friendly farm. She marveled at the bees on his hand.
Seeking to share the bee-utiful bees, Oliver handed them over to her as photographers chronicled the encounter.
"See, they don't sting!" he said.
They did not. Here's proof!
We recently watched McCormack Hall superintendent Gloria Gonzalez of Vallejo, and her crew set up the exhibits in preparation for the crowds that will flow through the building next week.
Butterflies appear in many of the entries, including quilts, vests, needlework, paintings, photographs, and arts and crafts. As the crew worked, a butterfly fluttered through the open door, hovered over a display table, and then fluttered out. An omen?
One of the eye-opening, jaw-dropping displays is a butterfly-themed quilt made by LaQuita Tummings of Rodeo. Judges wrote, in part: "Wow, incredible design!" Indeed it is!
The adult division exhibits include a colorful vest of brilliant blossoms and majestic butterflies, sewn by Linda Douthit of Fairfield, a veteran seamstress, 4-H leader and longtime exhibitor. Laura Ryan of Vallejo entered her intricate needlework showcasing bees and blossoms; you can almost hear the bees buzz. Tina Waycie, Vallejo, is showing her quilling (paper arts); the attention to detail is amazing. In adult collections, Joanne Dalton of Vallejo, entered her case of 93 thimbles, and yes, a butterfly motif adorns one of them.
Theme of this year's Solano County Fair, established in 1949, is "This Fair's for Ewe." The grounds are located at 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo. Directors of the Solano County Fair Association, appointed by the Solano County Board of Supervisors, aim for a "positive experience for the public" through "educational, cultural, artistic, commercial and recreational programs."
The fair is open from from 3 to 11 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, and from noon to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. The schedule and ticket prices are listed on the fair website, but note the three free admission days:
- Seniors' Day: Free admission all day on Wednesday, Aug. 2 or seniors 60 and better
- Kids' Day: Free admission all day on Thursday, Aug. 3 for kids ages 12 and under
- Military and First Responders Appreciation Day: Free admission all day on Friday, Aug. 4 for military, law enforcement, firefighters and their dependents
When you go, be sure to look for the monarchs in McCormack Hall. If you're lucky, a butterfly--maybe a monarch, Gulf Fritillary or Western tiger swallowtail--will flutter into the building.
Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. --Nathaniel Hawthorne
Teachers ask their students to make an insect collection. The project is considered a "rite of passage." However, often the students--whether they be middle school, high school or college level--don't know where to begin. Ditto for 4-H'ers enrolled in entomology projects.
What to do?
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to the rescue. There, on the home page, students can access short, clear, concise videos on how to create an insect collection. They can watch and download them for free.
The story behind the story: Back in 2010, James R. Carey. professor of entomology, wanted to teach UC Davis students how to create and produce short videos that could tell the story in a minute or less. And he did just that.
The entire series, totaling 11 clips ranging in length from 32 seconds to 77 seconds, can be viewed in just less than 10 minutes.
“So in less than 10 minutes, someone can learn how to make an insect collection,” Carey says. The clips are tightly scripted, with an emphasis on brevity, simplicity and low cost.
The project continues to draw widespread interest and won an award from the Entomological Society of America. Carey, now a distinguished professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology and active in research, teaching and public service, went on to win the ESA's 2015 national teaching award. It will be presented at the ESA's November meeting in Minnesota. The "How to Make an Insect Collection" project was just one of the many factors considered. (See his many other projects on his website.)
So, how do you make an insect collection? Easy!
Here are the videos:
Hand Collecting (32 seconds)
Using an Aspirator (34 seconds)
Ground Collecting (54 seconds)
Aquatic Collecting (58 seconds)
Using Nets (58 seconds)
Killing (51 seconds)
Pinning (43 seconds)
Point Mounting (50 seconds)
Labeling Specimens (48 seconds)
Spreading (77 seconds)
Storage and Display (32 seconds)
Insects populate the earth and they're also populating the 140th annual Dixon May Fair (May7-10).
Sharon Payne, superintendent of the Youth Building in Denverton Hall, noticed quite a few insects in the building--but in photographs. The youths' images included praying mantids, lady beetles and a Gulf Fritillary butterfly. Many of the images are from Solano County 4-H'ers.
Payne, a past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council and active in the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club of Vallejo and Benicia, coordinates the exhibits in the Dixon May Fair's Youth Building with fellow 4-H colleagues Gloria Gonzales and Julianna Payne.
Julianna served as a Solano County 4-H Ambassador for the 2012-2013 program year. Both Sharon and Julianna, mother and daughter, are master trainers in the 4-H THRIVE program, a leadership development project.
And over at Madden Hall, the almond and walnut industries have come to life, in keeping with the fair theme, "Nuttin' But Fun." Dixon May Fair chief executive officer Patricia "Pat" Conklin came up with the idea of wall-sized photos of almond and walnut orchards and bee pollination. (Wall photos donated by yours truly.)
It's good to see the focus on agricultural industries, the focus on 4-H, and the focus on entomology at California's oldest district fair. The grounds are located at 655 S. First St., Dixon.
And, by the way, of Solano County's 12 4-H clubs, Dixon claims five of them: Maine Prairie, Dixon Ridge, Roving Clovers, Tremont and Wolfskill.
A great agricultural community!
When do you start? What should you do?
Newly retired Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, continues to field questions. He's kindly agreed to respond to beekeeping queries until the new Extension apiculturist, Elina Lastro Niño of Pennsylvania State University, comes on board in September. (Actually, we expect to see Mussen buzzing around Briggs Hall and at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility quite a bit in his retirement years.)
Some questions come from 4-H leaders who organize the youth beekeeping projects.
Mussen is quite familiar with 4-H (head, heart, health and hands), a youth development program that emphasizes "learning by doing" and "making the best better." For decades, he's judged the annual California State 4-H Beekeeping Essay Contest.
Since 4-H'ers usually launch their projects in late summer or early fall, continuing through June, does a beekeeping project lend itself to that schedule?
No, not in the late summer or early fall.
"I won't tell you that you cannot start a colony of honey bees in the late summer or fall, but they will have a real uphill battle," Mussen recently told a 4-H leader. "The colony has to have enough time and food to rear a large enough colony population to make it through the winter. The harder part is having access to enough nectar and pollens to rear all the brood they need and still have enough extra nectar to store as a honey crop to get them through winter. They also need quite a bit of stored pollens to consume slowly during the winter and consume like crazy when brood-rearing starts for real around the end of December."
"Also, it will be a bit difficult to get a bunch of bees at this late date, unless you are in good with a beekeeper who will sacrifice a colony. And, if that is the case, I would take everything and overwinter it. Next spring you can split off some bees if you wish to raise a 'homemade' package."
Mussen says those who wish to reserve a package for next spring, should contact the bee breeder now. "They will be booked solid, due to winter colony losses this winter. You may have to hunt around for a smaller operation that will deal with “onesies.” The bigger producers sometimes do not like to ship less than 100 at a time.
"Otherwise, chase down a local beekeeping club and add your request (and dollars) to a larger order that the clubs put out in the spring. While packages can be obtained in late March, the mating weather can be pretty 'iffy.' A week or two into April sounds better to me."
So, bottom line: if you want to keep bees, contact the bee breeder now. Join a local beekeeping club and find a mentor; read beekeeping magazines, journals and books; and peruse back issues of Mussen's online newsletter, from the UC Apiaries and his Bee Briefs.