It's National Honey Bee Day or National Honey Bee Awareness Day, launched in 2009 by newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsak during his first year of office with the Obama Administration.
The goals are the same as those in 2009:
- Promote and advance beekeeping
- Educate the public about honey bees and beekeeping
- Ensure that the public is aware of environmental concerns affecting honey bees
It's a day when we applaud our bees, and the bee scientists, beekeepers, commercial breeders, and all the educational, scientific and research organizations that friend them, fund them, or fuel them.
Indeed, one third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. What many folks don't realize is that honey bees are not native to the United States. European colonists brought them here in 1622, and it wasn't until 1853 when a beekeeper in the San Jose area introduced them to California.
Statistics provided by the National Honey Bee Day officials, help tell the story of the industry:
- For every 100 beekeepers, 95 percent are hobbyists, 4 percent are sideliners, and 1 percent are commercial beekeepers.
- Beekeeping dates back at least 4500 years.
- Beekeeping can be a sustainable endeavor.
- Renting bees to farmers in need of pollination generates a source of income.
- Beehives are kept on farms, in backyards, on balconies, and high-rise rooftops, all across the country.
Bees will also take center stage at the 40th annual conference of the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) at the University of California, Davis. The conference, to take place Sept. 5-8 in the Activities and Recreation Center, is quite special because the organization was founded at UC Davis. WAS president is Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology promises an educational program, complete with speakers, networking, tours and a silent auction.
Among those speaking will be Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, who will address the crowd on "The Impact of Varroa on Honey Bee Reproductive Castes (Queen Bee, Worker Bee and Drone): Where Will the Research Lead Us?” Her talk is at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7.
Her research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding the synergistic effects of pesticides on queen health and adult workers in order to improve beekeeping management practice, testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, a major pest of bees, and understanding the benefits of supplemental forage in almond orchards on honey bee health. (Read her apiary newsletters, access her lab website at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/ or her lab Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/)
Writer Stephanie Parreira of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) recently interviewed Niño for a podcast on bee pests and how to manage them, using IPM methods. The podcast appears on the UC ANR Green Blog. You can read the transcript here.
Niño mentioned that varroa mites remain the key concern of beekeepers. "In fact, when I first started my position here as an extension specialist at UC Davis, I asked beekeepers what is one of the things that they would like me to focus on, and about ninety-nine percent of them said varroa mites," she said in the podcast. "Varroa mites are a problem because they basically suck honey bee blood, or honey bee hemolymph, they transmit viruses, [and] they can suppress immune genes in developing and adult bees. So they can kill the colony, basically, if they're not managed properly. We have seen in our own colonies that if we do not treat or manage varroa mites, we know that we will lose that colony over winter."
If you're interested in attending the WAS conference and learning more about bees, you can register here. The speakers represent a wide spectrum of expertise and topics, from top-bar beekeeping to pesticides to how to keep your colonies healthy. Or, you can contact President Mussen at email@example.com for more information.
Well, not just pink. All other colors, too.
It's National Honey Bee Day on Saturday, Aug. 20.
That's when we officially celebrate the honey bee, Apis mellifera, which the European colonists brought to the Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1622. The honey bee didn't arrive in California until 1853 when a beekeeper brought colonies to the San Jose area.
How did National Honey Bee Day originate? U.S. beekeepers launched the event in 2009. In fact, they petitioned the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture to recognize and pay tribute to its smallest agricultural worker, to spread awareness, and to advance beekeeping. This year's theme: "Beekeeping: A Hobby with a Sweet Taste."
When bees are out foraging, they bring back to the colony four essentials: nectar, pollen, water and propolis (plant resin that's used as a glue to seal small spaces).
But that's not the only thing they bring back to the hive.
They can also bring back pesticides that can kill or harm a colony.
Just in time for National Honey Bee Day, the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM), affiliated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, has developed and published Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings "to help pest managers make an informed decision about how to protect bees when choosing or applying pesticides."
Cheryl Reynolds, senior editor/interactive learning developer for UC IPM, wrote a piece today on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website about the project, first describing the UC IPM mission as "to protect the environment by reducing risks caused by pest management practices."
"The bee precaution ratings are based on the reported effects of a pesticide's active ingredient on adult honey bees or their brood," Reynolds wrote. "You can find and compare ratings for active ingredients including acaricides (miticides), bactericides, fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides."
"Ratings fall into three categories," she noted. "Red, or rated I, pesticides should not be applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering. Plants include the crop AND nearby weeds. Yellow, or rated II, pesticides should not be applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering, except when the application is made between sunset and midnight if allowed by the pesticide label and regulations. Finally, green, or rated III, pesticides have no bee precautions, except when required by the pesticide label or regulations."
Reynolds emphasized that the bee precaution pesticide ratings "are not the pollinator protection statements on the pesticide label."
"Each crop in the UC Pest Management Guidelines has links to the bee precaution ratings and provides guidance on how to reduce bee poisoning from pesticides," Reynolds pointed out.
Meanwhile, Happy National Bee Day! Thank a bee! And if you want to become a beekeeper, UC Davis offers classes.
If you've ever seen honey bees foraging on primrose, you may have seen something unusual.
What's with the pollen hanging below their hind legs as they buzz from primrose to primrose?
There's a reason for that.
Distinguished emeritus professor Robbin Thorp of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nemalogy alerted us to the reason.
"Note the stringy mass (mess) of pollen hanging below the hind legs of the bee," Thorp points out. "Honey bees have great difficulty in collecting (actually packing into their corbiculae) pollen from any large flowered species of Oenothera. The pollen grains are very large, more than 100 microns, and tied together with viscin threads to form a webby mass. This is ideal for transfer by hawkmoths where stringy masses get attached to their undersides as they probe for nectar."
"Oenothera pollen," Thorp says, "can be collected by some native bees where the scopae are modified to contain sparse simple hairs where the webby pollen can be easily stored. But the corbiculae of honey bees are not well suited to handle this webby stuff, since it will not pass neatly through the 'pollen mill' of the honey bee hind leg."
He recalls seeing the same situation when honey bees were working his desert evening primroses.
And speaking of honey bees, it's National Honey Bee Day on Saturday, Aug. 22.
Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, wrote a piece on a UC ANR blog published this week. He initially published it in the June 2013 edition of the UC IPM Retail Nursery & Garden Center IPM News but it's quite timely.
"The actual cause of honey bee decline is still uncertain," Mussen says. "What is known is a number of factors are probably involved. Honey bees are their most robust and able to best contend with stresses when well fed. In addition to water, honey bees require nectar sources for carbohydrates and a varied mix of pollens to provide proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, sterols, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Drought, flooding, and conversion of former foraging grounds into large agricultural monocultures, highways, airports, developments, and so forth have led to honey bee malnutrition in many locations."
"In the last 20 years beekeepers have been encountering a series of previously exotic pests that invade the hive and kill bees, such as the varroa mite; new honey bee diseases, including Nosemaceranae; and many viruses."
"Pesticides can also be involved in bee decline, especially when applied to plants when they are in bloom and bees are foraging," Mussen points out. "Many insecticides are highly toxic to bees including virtually all organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethroids. If not killed in the field, foraging bees can collect residue-contaminated pollens and bring them back to the hive for immediate consumption or long-term storage. There are serious concerns over the chronic, sublethal effects of these residues on the physiology of immature and adult bees."
"A newer class of insecticides, the neonicotinoids, which include imidacloprid, clothianidin, and dinotefuran, also pose hazards for honey bees. These products are systemic materials that move through the plant and are included in the nectar and pollen of flowers when they bloom. Although the neonicotinoid residues may not kill bees immediately, they may have sublethal effects, such as suppressing immune and detoxification systems, causing bees to be more sensitive to other stresses."
If you want to know more about neonics, be sure to attend the UC Davis neonics conference on "Truth or Myth: Neonicotinoids and Their Impact on Pollinators: What Is the Science-Based Research?” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9 in the UC Davis Conference Center. UC Davis researchers and state officials will address the crowd, announced conference coordinator Dave Fujino, director of the UC Davis-based California Center for Urban Horticulture. You can register on the CCUH website.
Confusion exists as to whether National Honey Bee Day is Aug. 15 or Aug. 22.
The group that formed National Honey Bee Awareness Day says its Aug. 15. Pennsylvania Apiculture, aka PennApic, launched the National Honey Bee Awareness Day in 2009.
The U.S. Congress, however, has proclaimed National Honey Bee Day as Aug. 22.
It really doesn't matter which day it is. We should celebrate National Honey Bee Day every day.
European colonists brought the honey bee to America (Jamestown colony, Virginia) in 1622. It wasn't until 1853, however, that the honey bee made its way to California, San Jose, to be more specific.
But where did the honey bee originate? For centuries, scientists thought it originated in Asia, but recent genetic analysis reveals it originated in Africa.
So all honey bees are descended from a common ancestor in Africa. It was out of Africa and into Europe and then all over the world.
In an article published in Softpedia, Charles W. Whitfield, professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says that "Our analysis indicates that the honey bee, Apis mellifera, originated in Africa and spread into Europe by at least two ancient migrations."
Excerpts from the article:
"The genus Apis contains 10 species, nine of which endemic to Asia. The only exception, Apis mellifera, the common honey bee, is found from sub-Saharan Africa to Central Asia to Northern Europe, and it is represented by more than two dozen distinct geographical subspecies."
"From Africa, the species spread to Europe and Asia, creating distinct genetic lineages (subspecies), including the Italian bee, used extensively for agricultural pollination."
Whitfield points out that the migrations "resulted in two European populations that are geographically close, but genetically quite different. In fact, the two European subspecies are more related to honey bees in Africa than to each other."
Whitfield relates that Europeans introduced in the Americas at least 10 subspecies from different parts of Europe, Near East and Northern Africa beginning with 1622.
North and South America quickly learned about the South African savanna subspecies, Apis mellifera scutellata, which scientists brought to Brazil in 1956 in an effort to increase honey production. It became known as "the killer bee" because of its aggression as it hybridized and displaced European honey bees.
"By studying variation in the honey bee genome, we can not only monitor the movement of these bees, we can also identify the genes that cause the variations--and that will allow us to better understand the differences," Whitfield said in Softpedia.
We're glad to see the exploding interest in the honey bee--from the backyard beekeeper to the rooftop beekeepers--and the work underway to protect it.
Apis mellifera needs to bee all it can bee.
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Not just on National Honey Bee Day, which is Saturday, Aug. 16, but every day.
This year's theme is “Sustainable Gardening Begins with Honey Bees.”
Some grassroots-minded beekeepers established the day in 2009 "to build community awareness of the bee industry, through education and promotion," according to their website. "Our commitment is to continue that philosophy."
"Oh, but I'm just one person!" you say. The NHBD's response to that is a quote from Edmund Burke (1729-1797): "No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."
Here's what we did: We removed our lawn: no lawnmower, no edger, no lawn. Our garden is a bee garden. We planted lavender, artichokes (and let them flower), catmint, alyssum, cilantro, cosmos, tower of jewels, zinnias, guara, blanketflowers (Gallardia) sunflowers, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), lantana, California golden poppies, honeysuckle, salvia, oregano, African blue basil, sedum, peach, tangerine, pomegranate, lemon and other bee favorites. A drip irrigation grid system, timed to turn on at 4 in the morning, keeps the plants healthy, and the nectar and pollen flowing. It's a veritable oasis. It's a welcome mat. It's a pool of floral resources. C'mon in, the flowers are fine!
It's also important to select seasonal plants, especially for late summer and fall, when food resources are scarce. Avoid pesticides. Buy local honey. Support the bees. Support the beekeepers. Become a beekeeper or let beekeepers maintain their hives on your property, if you can.
Get involved with bees!
If you're like me, you love to photograph them. I can sit for hours in our bee garden and just watch them go about their bees-ness. Here are several of my favorite images: