The Pollinator Partnership, as part of its U.S. Bee Buffer Project, wants to partner with California farmers, ranchers, foresters, and managers and owners to participate in a honey bee forage habitat enhancement effort. It's called the U.S. Bee Buffer Project and the goal is to "borrow" 6000 acres to plant honey bee seed mix.
It will create a foraging habitat of pollen and nectar, essential to honey bee health. And there's no charge for the seed mix.
What a great project to help the beleaguered honey bees!
"Beekeepers struggle to find foraging areas to feed their bees when they are not in a pollination contract," said "idea generator" Kathy Kellison of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, a strong advocate of keeping bees healthy. "Lack of foraging habitat puts stress on the bees and cropping systems honey bees pollinate. The U.S. Bee Buffer Project will develop a network of honey bee forage habitats in agricultural areas to support honey bee health and our own food systems. We are looking for cooperators with land they are willing to set aside as Bee Buffers."
Kellison points out:
- Honey bees provide pollination services for 90 crops nationwide.
- A leading cause for over-winter mortality of honey bee colonies given by beekeepers surveyed is starvation. The nationwide winter loss for 2012/2013 was 31.3 percent.
The requirements, she said, are minimal:
- Access to an active farm, ranch, forest, easement, set-aside, or landscape
- Ability to plant 0.25 to 3 acres with the U.S. Bee Buffer seed mix
- Commitment to keep the Bee Buffer in place
- Allow beekeepers and researchers on-site
Of course, the benefits to the participants include free seeds and planting information; supplemental pollination of flowering plants; and leadership participation in the beginnings of a nationwide effort to support honey bees. Then there's the potential for enriched soil, reduction in invasive plant species, and enhanced wildlife habitat.
And, we made add, a sense of accomplishment as bees forage on your thriving plants.
Those interested in participating in this nationwide effort and hosting a Bee Buffer, can visit http://www.pollinator.org/beebuffer.htm to fill out a brief eligibility questionnaire. More information is available from Mary Byrne at the Pollinator Partnership at (415) 362-1137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the most prominent and distant--as in far away--visitors to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, was Mark Leech of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.
Leech visited the garden several years ago to research his book, Bee Friendly: A Planting Guide for European Honeybees and Australia Native Pollinators for the Australian Rural Industries R&D Corp (RIRDC).
"The book," he told us, "is to encourage planting for bee forage across the landscape from urban to the rural environment and all climate zones."
Leech recently provided us with a copy of the finished work, which is absolutely magnificent. It's informative, educational and colorful and is bound to make a difference.
On Page 1, he writes: "The world has become aware of the plight of the honeybee. The reported collapse of honeybee population in North America and Europe, and the fear of a food crisis, have led people around the world to become concerned. Shrinking resources, increased urbanization, ever expanding corporate agriculture with its push for monoculture, greater use of insecticides and herbicides, changes to grazing practices, a global warning trend and climatic chare are all placing pressure on honeybee and native pollinator population. It is in this context that this book was produced, to guide planting decisions in favour of plants theat benefit honeybees and native pollinatiors."
He devotes one page to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, which was planted in the fall of 2009 and is operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "In response to colony collapse and threats to the US apiary industry, Häagen-Dazs, a well-known ice cream brand, launched the Häagen-Dazs Loves HoneyBees' campaign in February 2008, committing significant funding to both the University of California, Davis and Pennsylvania State University for honeybee research. Its contribution to UC Davis resulted in a bee garden as a demonstration, education and research tool."
"The purpose of the Honeybee Haven garden is to provide a year-round food source for honeybees," Leech continued. "One of the design criteria in the competition that was held was that the Honeybee Haven should inspire the development of honeybee garens in a variety of settings, including backyards, public gardens, agricultural easements, urban rooftoops and other urban species."
For the front and back covers of the book, Leech chose an mage of a bee foraging on a pink zinnia (a photo taken by yours truly in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven).
His species pages contain 193 species, native and exotic, "that were chosen to represent a selection of useful bee forage. Many of the plants are known as top producers of both pollen and nectar, a few are nectar only, and some are pollen only."
Among those contributing to the book from the United States: Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture; bee scientist Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota; and Kathy Kellison, executive director of Partners for Sustainable Pollination.
It's a book well worth reading. You can download a free PDF of the book from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation website at http://www.rirdc.gov.au/. Go to publications and look under honeybees. You can also order a bound copy through Mark Leech at email@example.com.
This would include mustards, clover and buckwheat, plants that honey bees love.
Kellison, the executive director of the Santa Rosa-based Partners for Sustainable Pollination, will speak Thursday, Aug. 8 at the 13th annual Sustainable Winegrowing Field Day, to be held at the Shone Farm at 7350 Steve Olson Lane, Forestville.
The field day is sponsored by the Sonoma County Winegrowers, Santa Rosa Junior College Agriculture/Natural Resources Department and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.
Kellison, to speak at 11:30 a.m., will cover bee-friendly farming, agricultural practices to improve bee health, and why it’s important to plant bee friendly landscapes, including bee gardens. "One major factor in the decline of all bees is the lack of food plants," she says.
Wine growers and beekeepers can work together to make better bee nutrition a reality, Kellison says.
Natural forage and nutrition are essential to good honey bee health and to their ability to cope with pests, pathogens and other stressors, she points out. "Special consideration must be given to encouraging plantings of late summer and fall blooming plants to help hives survive through the winter to the next blooming season."
Among the half-dozen speakers at the field day will be Doug Gubler of UC Davis, who will discuss “Fungicide Resistance Management and Prevention for Grapevine Diseases." Lucia Varela, UC Cooperative Extension pest advisor, will provide a display on how to identify the adult Virginia creeper leafhopper.
Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PSP), founded in 2007, aims to work with farmers and beekeepers to improve the health of honey bees and support native pollinators. "We foster awareness and support for providing increased availability of flowering plants to honey bees and native pollinators," Kellison says.
Partners include local conservation districts, growers, beekeeping and farm groups, and other stakeholders.
One of the PSP advisors is Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
This year's overall theme is "Know Your California Farmer." For those who love bees, it might as well be "Know Your California Beekeepers."
The California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and the Sacramento Area Beekeepers Association (SABA), again will be answering questions about bees and the beekeeping industry and handing out free Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Honeystix (honey-filled straws), bee information, honey recipes, and the like. Also planned: a bee observation hive.
We've never heard anyone say "I hate bees!" at this annual event. Which is a good thing, too, as one-third of all the food we eat is pollinated by bees.
California Ag Day is sponsored by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), California Women for Agriculture, and the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.
The theme spotlights the contributions of farmers and ranchers from California's diverse counties and growing regions, according to CDFA spokesperson Steve Lyle, director of public affairs.
Specifically, says Lyle: "Ag Day is an annual event designed to recognize California's agricultural community by showcasing the numerous commodities that are produced in our state--and the farmers and ranchers who bring them to our tables. It is also a day for the agricultural community to show its appreciation of California's by bringing together state legislators, government leaders and the public for a half day of agricultural education and treats."
The event will be open to legislators and staff only from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and then open to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. CDFA Secretary Karen Ross will participate in a press conference, "Eat Local, Buy California Grown" at 11:30. At noon, a stage presentation will be emceed by Michael Marks "Your Produce Man."
What's planned at the beekeeping booth? Among those staffing the booth and answering questions will be newly elected CSBA president Bryan Ashurst of Westmorland; Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, a member of CSBA; and booth coordinator Carlen Jupe of Salida, secretary-treasurer of the CSBA.
Häagen-Dazs, which generously provides the ice cream, is a strong supporter of UC Davis bee research. Honey bees and ice cream go together; at least half of the brand's flavors require bee pollination. (Note: You'll want to visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. In addition, Häagen-Dazs provided funds for postdoctoral scholar Michelle Flenniken, who researches bee viruses.)
Folks accustomed to seeing only honey bees (which are non-natives) buzzing around their yard probably aren't aware that in the United States alone there are some 4000 identified species of native bees.
And they probably aren't aware of The Bee Course.
That's a workshop offered for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees. It's held annually in Portal, Ariz. in the Chiricahua Mountains at the Southwest Research Station of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). This year's dates are Aug. 22-Sept. 1.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and active in the Xerces Society, has taught at The Bee Course since 2002.
The course, led by Jerry Rozen of AMNH, has been operating continuously since 1999, Thorp said, and UC Davis graduates are very much involved. Steve Buchmann who received his Ph.D. at UC Davis in 1978, is one of the instructors. Ron McGinley who received his undergraduate degree at UC Davis, does most of the initial student contact and scheduling for the course, Thorp said.
"There are usually about eight instructors and 22 participants for the 10- day course," Thorp said. "Most of the time is spent in the lab identifying bees to genus. At least three days are spent in the field so students can see various bees doing their thing, collect them and bring them back to the lab to ID them. It is a great experience for students to interact with instructors and especially with their peers from round the world."
"Instructors all donate their time to teach in the course, but benefit from the chance to get together with colleagues and a new cohort of interesting students each year. Every class is different--that is, it takes on its own personality--and each student brings something new and different to the mix."
More locally, Thorp will speak Sunday, March 7 on the amazing diversity of native bees at the 2010 Bee Symposium, sponsored by the Santa Rosa-based Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PFSP). He'll discuss their nesting habits and nest site requirements. The symposium takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Subud Center, 234 Hutchins Ave., Sebastopol.
The fourth annual conference will offer updates and new perspectives on honey bees and native pollinators, according to PFSP executive director Kathy Kellison.
It's good to see the focus on native bees as well as honey bees. For more information on native bees, be sure to check out the Xerces Society Web site and UC Berkeley's Native Bee Gardens.