That's because bees don't fly until the temperature hits around 55, and the thermometer on that wintry day (Jan. 7) refused to budge over 47.
The facility, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, is located next to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
It slides Davis into the national spotlight as "Pollination Central" and "The Bee Capital of the World." The Davis facility is the newest of five USDA bee research labs in the United States and as the only one in California.
“This is the only USDA bee research team in California—where the action is,” said emcee Paul Pratt, research leader of the Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Research Lab. USDA maintains honey bee research facilities in Tucson, Ariz.; Beltsville, M.D., Baton Rouge, La., and Stoneville, Miss.
“The opening of the USDA-ARS bee lab marks a new opportunity for USDA and UC Davis entomologists to collaborate and investigate serious problems that affect stakeholders,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “We are very fortunate that the lab was built at UC Davis.”
Plans for the USDA-ARS facility began five years ago at a stakeholders' conference in the Laidlaw facility. Attendees at the November 2015 meeting targeted honey bee health, primarily varroa mites, pesticides and nutrition.
Park-Burris, of Jackie Park-Burris Queens, Palo Cedro--her family has worked with UC Davis researchers for more than 80 years--cut the ribbon with four other stakeholders: almond pollination consultant Robert Curtis of Carmichael, former director and associate director (now retired) of Agricultural Affairs, Almond Board of California; Kevin Adee of Bruce, S.D., president of the American Honey Producers' Association; Brad Pankratz of Can-Am Apiaries, Orland, Calif.; and Darren Cox of Cox Honey Farms, Logan, Utah, a past president of the American Honey Producers' Association.
Pratt introduced newly hired research entomologists, Arathi Seshadri and Julia Fine, who form the Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Research Unit at Davis. They are dedicated toward developing technology that improves colony survivorship through long-term studies of multiple stress factors, he said. "They will develop and transfer integrated biologically based approaches for the management of invasive species and the improvement of pollinator health.”
The speakers centered their presentations around cooperation, camaraderie, and, yes, the cold! (See new story and images on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
Park-Burris said it well:
"The California State Beekeepers' Association is overwhelmed that we have a USDA lab to collaborate with our UC Davis lab. We hope there's a lot of collaboration going on. We really look forward to that. As a stakeholder, my family has been raising queens just north of here (Palo Cedro) for over 80 years. Dr. Laidlaw had worked with my uncle and my father. He's been at my house. And he's been through my bees. Julia (Fine) has even already been up to see the queen farm.” (See more information on Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr., 1907-2003, the father of honey bee genetics, on the UC Davis website.)
“The queen bee breeding industry could definitely use you guys,” Park-Burris continued. “California has all the issues because everybody comes here. …it's very important that we have this lab here and how grateful we are that you have all gone to the work to make this happen."
“We look forward to solving some of our problems—varroa, varroa, varroa--and forage and pesticide interaction,” Park-Burris said, “and all that happens in California during the largest pollinator event in the world. So you're in a good place and we're grateful.”
The bees? They're grateful, too.
Beekeeper Kelvin Adee, who hails from Bruce, isn't experiencing any of that right now.
He's in California--and so are his bees for the almond pollination season.
Adee is the president of the American Honey Producers' Association, which is meeting Jan. 7 through Jan. 12 for the 2020 North American Honey and Pollinator Summit and Trade Show at the Hyatt Regency, Sacramento.
Adee and other members of the executive board met Tuesday morning, Jan. 7 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, for a pre-conference session. They then participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the newly constructed USDA-ARS bee research facility, corner of Bee Biology and Hopkins roads. (See news story)
“Is it true that the national tree of South Dakota is the telephone pole?” we asked him during the luncheon.
He laughed and said the state does indeed have wide-open spaces. The population in Bruce is sparse, too. In fact, the 2019 census recorded the population at 204.
Bruce is the home of Honey Days Festival, held the last week of July. In fact, Adee Honey Farms, known as the world's largest producer of honey (and a prominent employer in town) inspired it.
But back to Kelvin Adee. He's a third-generation beekeeper. He actually lives in nearby Brookings but works out of the home office in Bruce.
His biosketch indicates: “Growing up in a commercial beekeeping family, Kelvin developed his interest in beekeeping at a young age, learning the business and the science from his father. As a third-generation beekeeper, he also gathered beekeeping knowledge from his grandfather, uncles and cousins who have been involved in beekeeping operations." Adee attended college in Bartlesville, Okla., receiving a bachelor's degree in business and accounting. and then returned to the beekeeping business. He has been actively involved in growing the business into an 80,000 colony farm operating in multiple states, according to the biosketch. He oversees the queen rearing/nuc operation in Mississippi and Texas along with company-wide honey production.
His biosketch also relates: “In addition to beekeeping, Kelvin has served on boards in various positions for the state beekeeping association and the national association. He is active in his community and his church and has served numerous years on the school board. Kelvin married his high-school sweetheart Darla and recently celebrated 37 years of marriage. They have four grown sons and five grandchildren. Three of Kelvin's sons have joined him working full time in the beekeeping business, and the fourth son works in crop production ag. He also enjoys working in the business with his father, Richard, brother, Bret and his sister Marla.”
Meanwhile, it's brrrr cold in Bruce, but here in the Davis area, it's warming up. Plants such as tidy tips, Kniphofia "Christmas Cheer" and manzanita are blooming on the UC Davis campus.
Almonds usually start blooming around Valentine's Day, heralding the beginning of almond pollination season. Hear that buzz? No? It's coming.
The Dec. 7th class is sold out. But keep in touch: another class is scheduled June 14, 2020.
In the December class, set from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Center on Bee Biology Road, participants will learn how wax is made, how to collect it, how to process it, and how to make their own wax products such as candles and wax reusable food wraps.
It will be taught by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program, and lab assistants Robin Lowery and Nissa Svetlana Coit.
Lowery and Coit "will be leading us through the practical part of the wax working day,” announced Wendy Mather, program manager of the California Master Beekeepers Program. “This class is perfect for the hobby and sideline beekeeper and for other individuals interested in learning the basics of working with wax.”
The instructors said the class "will be a creative and science-based class learning the what, why and how of beeswax, making candles, lotion bars, beeswax food wraps, lip balm and dipped flowers to take home.” The products are wonderful for holiday gifting, they said.
As a bonus, the instructors will provide an overview of the honey extraction process, and learn bottling, labeling rules and regulations, and how to perform a honey tasting.
Class participants will have an opportunity to make candles with wicks, use molds, pour wax into jars or cans, dip flowers in wax, and make hand lotion, chapsticks, and wax reusable food wraps.
The two lab assistants are daily exposed to bees, beekeeping, and all things related to honey bee husbandry, said Mather. Lowery, a two-year beekeeper, assists with managing the apiary and the research at the E. L. Nino lab. "She has been making gifts for special occasions for over 15 years and looks forward to modeling how to dip and roll candles, make sealing wax, lotion and lip balm, and wax food wrappers," Mather said.
Beeswax is a natural wax produced by worker honey bees, which have eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments. Hive workers collect the wax and use it to form cells for honey storage and for larval and pupal protection. When beekeepers extract the honey, they remove the wax caps from the honeycomb frame with an uncapping knife or machine.
Beewax has long been used for making candles (they are cleaner, brighter and burn longer than other candles) and for cosmetics and encaustic paintings. Wax food wrappers, used to wrap sandwiches and cover bowls of food, are environmentally friendly, sustainable, economical, and a reusable alternative to plastic bags. Statistics show that globally, people use an estimated one trillion single-use bags every year, or nearly 2 million a minute. While beeswax is a natural wax, plastic bags and plastic bags contain chemicals, and there is concern that chemicals can leach into the food.
The $235 registration fee covers a continental breakfast, snacks, lunch and refreshments, and materials. Participants make and take two of each item. Mather may be reached at email@example.com for more information.
Like all insects, it has a head, thorax and abdomen. But are you familiar with the rest of its anatomy?
Here's an opportunity to learn about "Advanced Anatomy and Physiology of the Honey Bee" in a class offered Saturday, Oct. 19 by the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP).
The daylong course, to be conducted by CAMBP director and Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will take place at the Harry Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
This course covers the scientific "hands-on" portion of the journey level of the CAMBP. "We will offer the attendees an opportunity to familiarize themselves with dissecting tools and microscopy, examine specimens under the microscope and perform dissections," Niño said. "Participants will explore in detail the anatomy and physiology of the honey bee.
This course ends at 4:30 but usually folks linger until 5 to ask questions or share experiences. The $200 registration fee includes the continental breakfast, snacks, and a catered lunch. Click here to register.
The California Master Beekeeping Program uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. The Master Beekeepers serve as knowledgeable ambassadors who disseminate science-based information about the importance of honey bees, preserving bee health and responsible beekeeping.
"We've just completed our apprentice exams for this year!" said Wendy Mather, program manager of CAMBP. "In 2019 we have 26 new CAMBP apprentices in San Diego, 34 in Davis, and we are welcoming our first 22 journey level members!"
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and director of the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB) teaches classes with her lab associates throughout much of the year.
Participants agree that the classes are "the bees' knees," a phrase which means they're excellent, of the highest quality.
One of the most recent classes, "Planning Ahead for Your First Hives," drew the maximum of 23 participants at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.
The group spent a Saturday learning all about honey bees via lectures and hands-on activities.They learned bee biology, components of the hive, where to place the hive, and how to plan for their first hive--all under the tutelage and watchful eyes of the two Niños: Elina Lastro Niño and husband/beekeeper Bernardo Niño, who is the CAMPB educational program supervisor and a staff research assistant in the E. L. Niño lab.
Then the participants donned bee veils and stepped outside to the apiary to learn hive inspection basics. They returned to the classroom for lunch and a Powerpoint presentation on "Keeping Bees Year-Around."
Highlights included opening a hive and engaging in queen wrangling, hands-on activities (holding a frame and identifying the queen, worker bees and drones), and varroa mite monitoring. The participants also examined several different types of the hives in the apiary, including the traditional Langstroth hive, Kenya top bar hive or horizontal top bar-hive, Warré hive and a flow hive. The short course ended with a session on "Save us from the hive intruders!" and a question-and-answer period.
The next day CAMPB hosted another short course, this one on "Working Your Colonies." Participants learned what is necessary to maintain a healthy colony. Lectures covered advanced honey bee biology, honey bee integrated pest management, and products of the hive. The group also learned about queen wrangling, honey extraction, splitting/combined colonies, and monitoring for varroa mites.
Both courses drew maximum enrollment. "The classes were excellent," commented Wendy Mather, program manager of CAMPB. "We received really great feedback and the participants were thrilled to get the in-hive experience. And we got to sample some melipona honey (from stingless bees) from the Yucatán, as one of our participants had recently returned from a trip there."
The participants "now have some science-based knowledge and skills about honey bees and beekeeping that they can confidently share," Mather said. CAMPB uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping.
Next Class: Varroa Mite Management Strategies
The next beekeeping class? "Varroa Mite Management Strategies" from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Laidlaw facility. Participants will learn how to monitor, mitigate and manage the pests.
"Current beekeeping challenges call for all beekeepers to have a solid understanding of varroa mite biology and management approaches," said Elina Lastro Niño, in describing the course. "We will dive deeper into understanding varroa biology and will devote majority of the time to discussing pros and cons of various means to monitor, mitigate, and manage this crucial honey bee pest."
Niño, who serves as the state's Extension apiculturst, is known for her expertise on honey bee queen biology, chemical ecology, and genomics. She holds a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University (PSU), where she served as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Christina Grozinger, director of the PSU Center for Pollinator Research.
The course, limited to 20 participants, will cover varroa biology, treatment options and chemical-free options. Participants are to bring their bee veil or suit. The $200 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch and refreshments. The last day to register is Monday, Oct. 7. Click here to register.
The eight-legged varroa mite (Varroa destructor) is an external parasite that attacks and feeds on honey bees. The female is reddish brown, while the male is white. They measure 1–1.8 mm long and 1.5–2 mm wide. Originating in Asia, varroa mites are now found throughout most of the world. Scientists first detected the pest in the United States in 1987.