That's the topic that Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture, University of Sussex, United Kingdom, will cover when he presents a seminar on Wednesday, Dec. 7 at the University of California, Davis.
He'll deliver the seminar, "How Can We Help Bees Via Research? The Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health and Well Being" from 4:10 to 5 p.m., in 122 Briggs Hall. He is a leading researcher on kin selection and social evolution. Ratnieks will be introduced by assistant professor Brian Johnson, who studies the behavior, evolution, and genetics of honey bees.
Ratnieks focuses his research on honey bees and social insects and addresses both basic and applied questions. One current area of research is aimed at helping bees by carrying out research with practical benefits to bees and beekeepers:
- The control of honey bee diseases, including natural disease resistance via hygienic behavior in honey bees and stingless bees and the setting up of a research spin-off business, LASI Queen Bees, to supply bees bred for high levels of hygienic behavior to beekeepers and
- How to improve foraging, including using the honey bee waggle dance to investigate foraging ecology and how to put the process of recommending bee friendly plants onto a stronger scientific basis.
The seminar, open to all interested persons, will be recorded for later viewing on UCTV. Here's where to access the Department of Entomology and Nematology's recorded seminars.
It's "Orange October" for the San Francisco Giants, who just defeated the Detroit Tigers in the opening game of the World Series.
But over at the Luther Burbank's Gold Ridge Experiment Farm at 7781 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, it's Blue October.
It's delightful to see the honey bees foraging in the sky-blue borage (Borago officinalis), aka starflower and bee bread.
Burbank (1849-1926), a noted plant breeder, must have enjoyed the bees there, too. You can almost feel his presence as you walk along the paths, rimmed with more than 250 plant specimens.
His widow, Elizabeth Waters Burbank (1888-1977) donated 15 acres of their 18-acre farm to a senior housing development corporation and then gifted the remainder to the city of Sebastopol for historical preservation. Administered by the Western Sonoma County Historical Society, the farm is open to the public. There's no admission, but donations are accepted. You can also buy a few plants there.
As for borage, it's used as a salad herb and as a dessert garnish. It's also been used for medicinal purposes and for seed oil. Photographers love to capture the colors--the white, prickly hairs ghosting the spectacular blue blossoms.
When you visit the Gold Ridge Experiment Farm, though, you know the borage is for the bees. The nectar-rich blossoms are theirs and theirs alone.
A recent trip to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Fort Bragg, yielded spectacular views of the ocean, but something else also proved spectacular--the honey bees and bumble bees foraging on borage.
Borage (Borago officinalis) is a blue starflower with distinguishing black anthers, coupled with hairy, bristly stems and leaves. Borage is often used as a vegetable or herb in culinary dishes, such as salads and soups. It's also used to garnish a cocktail, flavor hot tea and to fill pasta ravioli.
Some folks swear by its medicinal purposes--its anti-inflammatory properties reportedly help you recover from a respiratory infection, or alleviate mild depression.
Your great-grandmother may have embroidered the likeness of a borage on her pillowcases or painted it on canvas or arranged the colorful flowers in a vase.
If you stroll through the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, you'll see borage lining one side of a traditional vegetable plot.
Honey bees and bumble bees can't get enough it.
Neither can photographers.