- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It was a bee. One little bee.
What are the odds of a honey bee landing on the window of a UC Davis vehicle parked outside the California Bee Breeders' Association meeting on a cool January day--Wednesday, Jan. 20--at the Ord Bend Community Center, Glenn County?
Inside, it was a gathering of bee breeders talking about industry issues. Outside, it was a gathering of clouds, as the sun struggled to cast shadows where it could. The clouds would darken tomorrow, but it would not rain today.
There were no pollinators in sight.
Except for this one little bee, which landed on the windshield. Was it looking for those scarce floral resources? Or soaking in the warmth of the sun? Or waiting to be photographed?
Surely it will be involved in the almond pollination season which begins around Feb. 14.
"There are now 890,000 bearing acres of almonds!" bee breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Jackie Park-Burris Queens, Palo Cedro, and a past chairman of the California Sate Apiary Board, told us last week. "They're needing approximately 1,780,000 hives! That is probably close to 85 percent of the commercial hives in the U.S. It is definitely 100 percent of the quality commercial hives in the United States."
"Beekeepers are very thankful for the job," she added. "The pollen from the almonds is one of the healthiest pollens my bees get all year, they love it!The largest pollinating event in the world happens in California during the almond bloom. It is a $5.8 billion crop for growers and the economy of California."
And it all starts with the bees. One. Little. Bee.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
California's beekeepers not only worry about the varroa mite (aka Public Enemy No. 1), but the small hive beetle.
As the state prepares for its annual almond pollination season--which usually begins around Valentine's Day--beekeepers from all over the country are trucking in their bees.
Some weakened colonies are harboring an unwelcome intruder, the small hive beetle, Aethina tumida.
Members of the California Bee Breeders' Association expressed concern about the beetle at their meeting Wednesday in Ord Bend, Glenn County. The beetle a pest of honey, pollen and bee brood and can spread rapidly.
Small hive beetles keep a low profile and can be missed at the border inspection stations, an ag commissioner said. Reasons include "not all border stations are open 24 hours a day" and some inspectors are untrained in detecting them. They can also be overlooked at county inspections.
Native to sub-Saharan Africa, the small beetle was first discovered in the United States in 1996, so it's been around for awhile. It thrives in "warm, humid climate with soft soil," says Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, whose career spanned 38 years before his retirement in June 2014. "It can overwhelm a mating nuc."
"It can be a real problem in states like Hawaii, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida," Mussen says. It's been found in some 30 states, including California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Virginia and Texas, as well as internationally.
Wikipedia colorfully describes beetle larvae as tunneling through the combs, "feeding and defecating, causing discoloration and fermentation of the honey."
Mussen says the beetle-infested honey has an unforgettable "off-citruslike smell to it."
So, it thrives in warm, humid climates. But that doesn't mean it's not in the colder climates. It simply spends the winter clustering with the honey bees.
As snug as a bug in a rug, or as snug as a beetle in a bee hive...