- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
You'll probably like lima bean honey.
Lima beans are a honey production crop, and this varietal is one of the six honeys to be sampled at the UC Davis Department of Entomology's free honey-tasting event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 at Briggs Hall. It's all part of the 99th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen has been staffing the activitity at the UC Davis Picnic Day for more than three decades.
Every year Mussen tries to offer something new and/or different for visitors to taste. He's gathered everything from cotton honey to starthistle honey. (Starthistle, by the way, is his favorite, and is also favored by many beekeepers.)
This year, in addition to lima bean honey, the varietals are manzanita, pomegranate, orange blossom, almond blossom and northern desert shrub (from Nevada). (See the National Honey Board website for information on varietals.)
Honey bees are trucked to California from all over the country to pollinate the state's 800,000 acres of almonds. But have you ever sampled almond blossom honey? Most people haven't. It's rather strong and leaves an aftertaste, Mussen says.
What many folks are also eager to try is the reddish-tinged honey from the northern desert shrub.
The honey tasting will take place in the courtyard of Briggs Hall, which is located just off Kleiber Hall drive. Each person will be given six toothpicks, one for each varietal. Due to popular demand, two tables will be set up to accommodate everyone.
Guess which one will be the last honey to be sampled? Almond blossom honey. That's because of the aftertaste.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
An international research team has been researching honey bee pollination of almonds in the three-county area of Yolo, Colusa and Stanislaus since 2008, and what these scientists have discovered is astounding.
The bottom line: Honey bees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other species of bees are present.
The research, “Synergistic Effects of Non-Apis Bees and Honey Bees for Pollination Services,”published in the Jan. 9th edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society, could prove invaluable in increasing the pollination effectiveness of honey bees, as demand for their pollination service grows.
So when honey bees are foraging with blue orchard bees and wild bees (such as bumble bees and carpenter bees), the honey bee behavior changes, resulting in more effective crop pollination, says lead author Claire Brittain, a former post-doctoral fellow from Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany and now associated with the Neal Williams lab at the University of California, Davis.
“These findings highlight the importance of conserving pollinators and the natural habitats they rely on,” Brittain says. “Not only can they play an important direct role in crop pollination, but we also show that they can improve the pollination service of honey bees in almonds.”
Where did this project originate? In the UC Berkeley lab of conservation biologist/professor Claire Kremen, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation (Genius) Award. Also an associate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, Kremen works closely with the department's bee scientists at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Brittain, Kremen, Klein and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology at UC Davis (he joined the team in 2010), co-authored the research.
“This is one of our first demonstrations on how to increase the efficiency of honey bee pollination through diversification of pollinators,” Williams said, pointing out that “With increasing demands for pollination-dependent crops globally, and continued challenges that limit the supply of honey bees, such strategies to increase pollination efficiency offer exciting potential for more sustainable pollination in the future.”
Yes. California’s almond acreage is rapidly increasing. Seems like only a few years ago it was 600,000 acres and now it totals 800,000. Each acre requires two bee hives for pollination, but honey bee-health problems have sparked new concern over pollination services.
As Kremen says: “Almond is a $3 billion industry in California. Our study shows that native bees, through their interactions with honey bees, increase the pollination efficiency of honey bees--the principal bee managed for almond pollination--and thus the amount of fruit set.”
What's next? “The project is ongoing and we plan to investigate further the mechanism behind the increased effectiveness of honey bees when other bees are present,” Brittain says. “We are also going to be looking at how to enhance floral resources for wild bees in almond orchards.”
Meanwhile, watch Professor Klein's UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar, presented in February 2010, when she lectured on “Can Wild Pollinators Contribute, Augment and Complement Almond Pollination in California." It drew widespread interest and a capacity crowd. Click on this link: https://admin.na4.acrobat.com/_a841422360/p37649788/ to hear more.