The bee world exemplifies diversity and the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month, being celebrated throughout the month of February, wouldn't exemplify diversity without them.
One of the pre-recorded presentations just uploaded on the Biodiversity Museum site deals with bees in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
The presentation, by bee garden manager Christine Casey, is an introduction to common bees found in urban gardens of Central California.
Many people are unaware that there are some 20,000 species of bees worldwide. Of that number, 4000 species are found in North America and 1600 species in California.
The late Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, was the go-to person to identify bees, and we all miss him. Thorp, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death at age 85. A tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, Thorp was known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
In his retirement, Thorp co-authored two books Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014). Locally, he was active in research projects and open houses at the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. In his research, he monitored bees in the half-acre haven, establishing a baseline in 2008, a year before the garden was installed. He eventually detected more than 80 species of bees in the garden.
Casey's presentation, billed as "Bees 101," documents some of the bees found in the garden, with colorful photos by the talented Allan Jones of Davis. Access the presentation at https://youtu.be/5KLrTIclx2A. Casey also will be delivering a live talk, with questions and answers, from 12:15 to 12:45 on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Click here to obtain the Zoom link.
Other UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month live talks and demonstrations will range from Asian giant hornets (1 to 2 p.m. Feb. 18 by Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology) to ants (11 a.m., to noon, Feb. 20 by Professor Phil Ward) to a program on the Botanical Conservatory (1 to 2 p.m., Feb. 24 by collections manager Ernesto Sandoval). To obtain the Zoom links, click here. The Botanical Conservatory presentation will be in Spanish. Sandoval earlier presented the program in English.
Note: If you'd like to donate to the UC Davis Diversity Museum Program in its crowdfunding efforts--this year is the 10th annual--click here. To donate to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, click here. To donate to the California Master Beekeeper Program, directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, click here. Niño also serves as the director of the haven.
Let's put the "bee" in bee-cause.
Meanwhile, as anyone who's been around bees knows, bees are not only absolutely fascinating, but thoroughly riveting.
The grant, titled "Strengthening Honey Bee Health and Crop Pollination to Safeguard Food Availability and Affordability," and headed by principal investigator Boris Baer, a UC Riverside professor of entomology, also includes Davis, San Diego and Merced campuses. “I'm very excited about so many different kinds of bee expertise joining forces through this project,” Baer said.
Honey bees pollinate more than 80 agricultural crops, including almonds, apples, blueberries and cherries. The pollination services of these tiny agricultural workers account for about a third of the American diet. However, pesticide exposure, spread of parasites and pathogens, habitat destruction and environmental changes are challenging beekeepers, resulting in decreased pollination services and increased food prices.
The grant is an important one. Co-principal investigator Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, which operates the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, says it well: "Most excitingly, this funding will not only support research that will help improve pollinator health so crucial for California's agriculture, but it will provide opportunities for training of students and postdoctoral scholars. Work focused on improving honey bee stocks via novel tools aligns well with ongoing work in the Niño lab and will further cement collaborations with beekeepers and growers.”
Niño, who works closely with California beekeepers, launched and directs the California Master Beekeeper Program, which uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping.
Other co-principal investigators are James Nieh and Joshua Kohn of UC San Diego, and a trio from UC Riverside: Kerry Mauck, Tsotras Vassilis, and Kim Hyoseung. At Merced, Marilia Palumbo Gaiarsa serves as a co-investigator.
The UC scientists plan a three-pronged approach to resolve the issue: develop better breeding programs, better medications and treatments, and better tools to monitor bee health in the hives. Small “listening and smelling” devices will be placed inside the hives to monitor bee health.
"Safeguarding honey bees and their pollination services requires beekeepers to be better able to manage the health and survival of colonies, which requires research into the causal factors and interactions affecting pollinator health, and the development and implementation of novel tools in close collaboration with industry partners. To do this, we will form a California wide, cross disciplinary research network and
- experimentally study the ecological and molecular factors and their interactions that affect honey bee health and their interactions to identify biomarkers of their health
- use the knowledge gained to develop and deliver new, effective solutions for stakeholders, including remote sensing of bee health, a marker-assisted breeding program, and the development of novel medications,
- build a research industry nexus to conduct collaborative research. We will also develop and deploy new extension and outreach modules that will be offered through UC Cooperative Extension statewide. We will support California beekeepers to build and maintain a sustainable and profitable beekeeping industry, which has implications for food security on a national level."
The co-principal investigators also noted in their grant proposal that "The current coronavirus pandemic and impending recession is putting more pressure on agriculture to provide sufficient and affordable food. Honey bees are key to such efforts, and supporting a California based beekeeping industry also decreases the state's dependence on managed pollination from elsewhere, thereby creating new jobs and income."
Funding also will help provide research opportunities for undergraduates, including underrepresented students, with the goal of ensuring that the pipeline of students who enter research, academia, industry, and multiple other professions reflects the diversity of the communities in which they learn and work.
This is all a win-win situation.
As Kohn said in a UC San Diego news release: “This network of bee researchers comprises a unique mixture of expertise that can apply highly multidisciplinary approaches to benefit the honey bee industry essential to the production of many of California's most economically important crops."
Amy Hustead of Grass Valley, a veteran beekeeper who also happens to be the first and only beekeeper in her family, is now certified by the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), headquartered at the University of California, Davis, as its first-ever Master Beekeeper.
She is no novice. She knows bees. She's a seven-year beekeeper and president of the Nevada County Beekeepers Association.
CAMBP, founded and co-directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. It offers three levels of certification (Apprentice, Journey and Master). Niño launched the first Apprentice class in 2016.
Hustead's passion is education and outreach. Her Master Capstone project involved teaching two, three-hour online CAMBP classes (“Planning Ahead for Your First Hives,” and “Working Your Colonies.”) She designed, developed and successfully delivered "Intermediate Backyard Beekeeping," an in-depth, online, four-hour course on science-based beekeeping for the hobbyist and sideliner. Topics included winter and spring preparation, swarm prevention, active swarming, splits and nucs (nucs, or nucleus colonies, are small colonies created from larger colonies), diseases, nutrition, maximizing honey production, and harvesting honey, wax, propolis and pollen.
Meet Amy Hustead
Amy Hustead, a wife, mother of 9-year-old twin boys, and a seven-year beekeeper, said she really enjoys CAMBP. “It has allowed me to meet some really excellent beekeepers. I plan to continue to teach classes and help educate people on the biology of bees.”
Highly praised for her work, she has drawn such comments as "the class exceeded my expectations”; her “lecture style is professional, yet warm, which is needed in the context of Zoom classes”; and she “keeps an open mind about other beekeepers' goals.” Wrote another: “Amy is very informed and easy to follow, and shares her information with the right amount of applicable detail for the intermediate.”
“I dabbled in homesteading when I first moved to the foothills, and like a lot of people, started out keeping chickens. I think I wanted to get goats but my husband was not on board, so I decided to get bees instead.”
As a veterinary technician, she works in low-cost spay and neuter programs. "I also volunteer with an organization that provides veterinary care to pets of homeless and low-income people in the Sacramento area."
Bees keep her occupied at several locations. “I have between 15-20 personal colonies at three different locations,” Hustead related. ”I also manage a few colonies for other people.”
As it turns out, this year is not a good year for bees. “Mostly my bees aren't doing well this year,” she said. “The nectar flow was non-existent, and the recent fires haven't helped. For the first year ever I am harvesting no honey from my yard at home.”
Hustead home-schools her twins. “I am very serious about home-schooling my kids, and part of our curriculum is extensive travel.” The Hustead family has visited a number of states in the nation, and has already been to Mexico, Ireland, Costa Rica. “We are planning a Europe trip as soon as possible.“
Since late 2016, CAMBP has certified 206 Apprentices and 22 Journey-level beekeepers, who have volunteered more than 24,510 service hours in science-based education and outreach in beekeeping and environmental stewardship. Total value of the service hours: $623,289. Total number of individuals served: 98,618.
CAMBP's current 53 Apprentice candidates will take their online exam Sept. 12. To pass, they must score at least 75 percent. “Candidates will upload videos or partake in 'live from their apiary' Zoom sessions to satisfy the requirements of the practical rubric,” Mather said.
The Journey-level candidates have completed the online written portion of their certification and their videos and Zoom practicals are in progress. “So far, we're proud to announce that all 15 Journey level candidates scored above 80 percent on their written exams, and their videos and Zoom practicals are looking great!” Mather commented.
The Master level usually takes an average of five years to achieve. Some candidates choose to remain as Apprentice or Journey-level beekeepers. CAMBP offers pre-approved Master Capstone Tracks, but also encourages candidates to follow their passion if their favorites are not on the list, which includes:
- Native Bees and Pollinator Gardens
- Commercial Beekeeping
- Scientific Research
- Education and Outreach
- Policy for Honey Bees and Native Pollinators
Seven Master-Level Candidates
The seven Master-level candidates for the 2020-21 season are pursuing a variety of projects, including mapping drone congregation areas, authoring a book on the history of honey in ancient Greece, establishing a pollen library for the state of California, starting a commercial beekeeping business, and training a “detector dog” in the apiary.
To maintain active status as a Master Beekeeper with CAMBP, members are required to perform and log 25 hours of BEEs (Beneficial Education Experiences). Hustead will perform a minimum of 25 volunteer hours annually. Her volunteer service, at the minimum, is valued at $25.43 per hour or about $600 per year.
“Amy will have no problem doing that as she's active as the president of her local beekeeping club,” Mather said, “and she mentors many new beekeepers to help them become science-based stewards and ambassadors of honey bees and beekeeping.”
Another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic: the annual California Honey Festival, which was scheduled May 2 in historic downtown Woodland.
This year would have been the fourth annual.
But, of course, and rightfully so, the cancellation is for our protection. It needed “not to happen.”
The California Honey Festivalevent, launched in 2017 and sponsored by the City of Woodland and the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, is an all-day, free festival that usually draws a crowd of some 30,000.
The event aims to cultivate an interest in beekeeping, and to educate the public in support of bees and their keepers, according to Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. Through lectures and demonstrations, the festival-goers learn about bees and how to keep them healthy. Major issues facing the bees include pests, pesticides, diseases, malnutrition, and climate changes.
Yes, those major issues still face the bees. But now we humans face a major issue of our own: a deadly virus. We are sheltering-in and social distancing. Bees are social insects and are out foraging for nectar, pollen, propolis and water. Their colony is one huge superorganism, with a queen bee, workers and drones. They all depend on one another to make the hive run smoothly. No queen bee, no colony. No workers, no colony. No drones, no colony.
As of 4:30 p.m. today, Covid-19 has infected more than 1.9 million people, and sadly, more than 118,000 people worldwide have perished, according to Johns Hopkins University. Reportedly, the United States is “nearing the peak right now.”
Stay safe out there!
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology operates and maintains the half-acre bee garden, located on Bee Biology Road next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus. It is open from dawn to dusk; admission is free.
The garden is directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, and managed by Christine Casey, academic program management officer.
While parents learned about bees and plants, youngsters engaged in a catch-a-bee-release-the-bee activity in the vegetation, using a bee vacuum. They scooped up the foragers, looked at them, and released them.
"Hey, I caught the queen bee," said one boy, unaware that the queen was in her hive, busily laying eggs. During the busy season, a queen bee can lay about 1000 eggs a day, and during the peak season, about 2000 eggs a day.
The garden, installed in the fall of 2009, was founded and "came to life" during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project.
A Sausalito team--landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki--won the design competition.
The half-acre bee garden is anchored by Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long mosaic ceramic bee sculpture that is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. She and entomologist/artist Diane Ullman co-founded and co-directed the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.
The garden is named for the primary donor, the premium ice cream brand, Haagen-Dazs. Other major donors include the California State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (under the leadership of then State Regent Debra Jamison of Fresno). Names of many of the donors--those who gave $1000 or more--are inscribed beneath the Miss Bee Haven sculpture.
Missy Borel Gable, now director of the statewide UC California Master Gardeners' Program, served as the founding manager of the garden. Under her leadership and the work of the 19 founding volunteers, the bee garden was listed as one of the Sacramento Bee's top 10 garden destinations. The 19 volunteers chalked up 5,229 hours of service between May 2010 and Feb. 15, 2013, when they opted for other opportunities. At the $10 minimum wage, that would have amounted to $52,290.
Native bee specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019) distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified more than 80 bee species in the garden.
Today diversity continues. An addition to the garden since its installation is a live bee colony.