Beauty at its best.
If see the perennial shrub, Anisodontea sp. ‘Strybing Beauty,' a member of the family Malvaceae (mallows), chances are you'll see bees pollinating the rosy pink blossoms.
It's an early bloomer, a mid-bloomer and late bloomer. Yes, it blooms year-around. It's a year-around bloomer.
“Strybing Arboretum” used to be the name of that noted botanical garden in San Francisco. Major donor Helene Jordan Strybing (1845-1926), widow of the wealthy San Francisco investor and landowner Christian Henry Strybing (1821-1895), donated the funds to honor her husband. It is now known as the "San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum.”
The Strybing name also appears in the species of other plants, including:
- Cuphea 'Strybing Sunset' (Orange Bunny Ears)
- Brugmansia 'Strybing Vulsa' (Angel's Trumpet)
- Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'
But the Strybing Beauty it truly is.
What's a honey bee to do when one of her favorite flowers, cape mallow (Anisodontea sp. "Strybing Beauty") is not open for bees-ness.
Well, leave it to the bee to find a way.
We recently witnessed a honey bee encountering a yet-to-open flower in the early morning. No entry! No way? And right at the beginning of National Honey Month, too. (USDA's National Honey Board founded the event in 1989 to celebrate the beekeeping industry and honey.)
As for Anisodontea, it's a perennial shrub that likes full sun.
It likes bees that pollinate it, too. It just closes at night and reopens in the morning.
Interested in keeping bees or knowing more about bees? The California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP) lists a number of bee classes on its website. The program, launched and directed by Cooperative Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, educates and trains bee ambassadors. You can become a Master Beekeeper and "communicate the importance of honey bees and other pollinators" within your community and serve as mentor for other beekeepers. Master Beekeepers are the "informational conduit between the beekeeping communities throughout the state and the UC Cooperative Extension staff," according to Niño and program manager Wendy Mather on their website. (Email email@example.com for more information.)
Currently available are three online courses or webinars:
- Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, 9 a.m. to noon, South Coast Research and Extension Center, Irvine
- Event details
- Register here: https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/730
- Saturday, Oct 9, 2021, 10 a.m. to noon
- Event details
- Register here: https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/739
- Saturday, Oct 16, 2021, 9 a.m. to noon, South Coast Research and Extension Center, Irvine
- Event details
- Register here: https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/733
Unlike flowers that close, the California Master Beekeeping Program does not, despite the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to grip us. CAMBP has just found another way--online.
Hear that buzz?
Are you ready for National Honey Bee Day?
It's held the third Saturday of August and that's tomorrow.
Launched in 2009 by a small group of beekeepers petitioning the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture (USDA), the day basically "honors" honey bees and beekeeping. We first observed National Honey Bee Day on Aug. 22, 2009 (the fourth Saturday of August), but it is now permanently celebrated on the third Saturday of August.
It's a "buzzworthy" day to celebrate our tiniest agricultural workers. One-third of the food we eat comes from crops pollinated by honey bees, including almonds, apples, plums, pomegranates, onions, strawberries and much more.
"Honey bees play a critical role in agricultural production and pollinate dozens of food producing crops in the United States," according to UC Davis-based scientists. "In the U.S., honey bees account for $15 billion in added crop value."
Show me the honey? Okay. In 2019, U.S. honey bees produced about 157 million pounds of honey worth a total value of $339 million, according to the USDA. California ranks 5th in the nation in honey production.
At UC Davis, Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of our Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, researches honey bees, and helps beekeepers and consumers. Her laboratory research interests include honey bee biology, health, breeding, behavior, reproductive physiology, genomics, chemical ecology and sociology of beekeeping. Check out her lab webpage on "Lending Bees and Beekeepers a Helping Hand." Niño, who serves all of California as the state's one and only apiculturist, also founded and directs the California Master Beekeeper Program, heralded for "using science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping."
Question: how many images do you have of honey bees pollinating different California crops? Here are a few.
She and 51 other beekeepers had gathered that day in September 2016 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis to undergo testing to become California Master Beekeepers at the apprentice level.
The UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program, launched and directed by Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, continually seeks science-based bee ambassadors. CAMBP's vision is "to train 2500 apprentice beekeepers over the next 5 years so they can effectively communicate the importance of honey bees and other pollinators within their communities, serve as mentors for other beekeepers, and become the informational conduit between the beekeeping communities throughout the state and UCCE (UC Cooperative Extension) staff."
The 52 beekeepers had just answered 125 questions on the written test, dealing with basic honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, maladies of the hive, and management techniques. Then they took the practical exam, which consisted of 20 minutes of one-on-one time with an examiner. They demonstrated their mastery of basic colony and hive inspections, identification of equipment and different hive types, and various management techniques.
Veretto, then president of the Sonoma County Beekeepers' Association (SCBA) and a member of the Sonoma County Master Gardeners (SCMG), had no qualms being first in line to take the practical test.
“I signed up to get it over with," Veretto told us. "I hate waiting for a test--it is nerve-racking. But once I opened the hive, I felt at home. The Master Beekeeper session was somewhat intense studying for the test. There is a lot of science/biology and vocabulary that I learned. Overall, it was a great experience. And I passed."
Sadly, Cheryl Veretto died on Aug. 3 after a hard-fought battle with cancer.
"It is with a heavy heart that I inform you all that Cheryl passed away on Tuesday 8/3," wrote a daughter on a Go Fund Me page. "She fought long and hard and in the end, she was surrounded by family and love. I want to thank you all for for the love and support you sent to Cheryl. She was loved and treasured by us all."
Cheryl had moved several years ago from a small town in Sonoma County, California, to a small town in Hays County, Texas, west of Austin, to be closer to family. She was a member of the Hays County Beekeeping Association.
The accolades are pouring in on social media:
"What a sad day when we lost Cheryl. A beautiful person inside and out."
- "I have missed Cheryl and her vivaciousness and energy since she left Sonoma County a few years back. I will always remember her in her bee outfit practically giving away the plants she propagated at the bee club meetings. She was a talented master gardener, artist, graphic designer, leader and beekeeper. Hard to believe she is gone. Much love to the family."
- "The story I remember the most is when you put down your hive tool and couldn't find it just when you needed to put the hive back together because the bees were angry and coming at you. I'll never put my hive tool down again while I am in the hive!"
“No, my family runs from bees,” she quipped. “I come from a family of gardeners-- generations of them."
We wrote about her and the California Master Beekeeping Program in a Bug Squad blog on Dec. 13, 2016.
At the time, Veretto said she lived on a small rural farm with her human family and 12 bee hives, along with Cashmere goats, chickens, cats, dogs, a food garden and several pollinator forage gardens.
"I started beekeeping with one hive six years ago and gradually built up to 12," she told us. "I think that is a good size of apiary for me; it takes a little more time for management but I am learning so much more, having several colonies to watch, and something different is going on in each. I keep bees in both Langstroth and TopBar hives, and have an observation hive for demonstration.“
Veretto related that she joined SCBA seven years ago, and had been keeping bees for six years.
How did she decide to be a beekeeper; what interested her in bees and in beekeeping? “I started out as a greedy gardener-- wanting everything to be pollinated so that I could select my best,” Veretto recalled. “I have always planted for pollinators in my gardens, but wanted to maximize, and so, I started beekeeping--and what a journey its been. I am now an activist for pollinators, and you never stop learning when you get into bees/beekeeping. The honey bee and humans are tied together closer than many think."
Veretto said she thoroughly enjoys keeping bees and engaging in public service. “I enjoy building community. We have an awesome bee club with a membership that is fully engaged--we have activities going on most every week, and we are active in the community, doing presentations and demonstrations,” she said. “I do public speaking with both SCBA and SCMG groups talking on 'Planting for Pollinators' and 'Safe Gardening' practices. I just finished the Advanced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program with Master Gardeners and hope to include much of that information in my presentations as well. My true passion is gardening and propagating bee forage plants; most days you find me outside in the gardens and apiary.”
"It is important to recognize we have to change our landscapes, build community, reclaim yards and convert them to gardens, grow food--share with your neighbors--plant it and they will come. Our environment is changing rapidly and we have to act fast to make a difference."
Let it "bee" known that Cheryl Veretto made a difference, a huge, definable difference.
Beekeeper Christine Kurtz of Petaluma said it well: "Cheryl was an amazing person, gardener extraordinaire and deeply cared about bees and all pollinators. She ran circles around us and her enthusiasm was intoxicating. We miss her so but she lives everywhere in our pollinator gardens because we all got plants from her. We will all continue planting in her honor. Life is short embrace the ones you love even if it's virtual."
Current SCBA president Kelli Cox related that in Cheryl's memory, "we are going to have a very informal gathering at Bees N Blooms in Santa Rosa on Saturday, Oct. 2 from 4-6. Her beekeeping friends, her gardening friends, her fellow Master Beekeeping Friends and family members are among those planning to attend. (For more information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cheryl Veretto's passing brings to mind, "telling the bees," a European-based ritual that involves telling the bees when a beekeeper dies so that bees can share in the mourning.
Societies to genes? And how do you get from there to here?
Noted honey bee geneticist Robert E. Page Jr., a UC Davis and Arizona State University emeritus professor and administrator, has authored a newly published, invited article in the journal Geneticson “Societies to Genes: Can We Get There from Here?” that highlights his three-decade scientific career.
“I was thrilled to be invited to write this perspectives/review of my scientific career; it is a collection of 30 years of single-minded focus on one question,” said Page, who is renowned for his research on honey bee behavior and population genetics, particularly the evolution of complex social behavior, and for his work on the first genomic map of the honey bee.
"The editors contacted me to write a perspectives/review that focuses on my own work, a study in complex adaptation,” Page related. “This is the first time they have done a perspectives article like this. I was, of course, honored. More than half of the work was done at UC Davis.”
“Understanding the organization and evolution of social complexity is a major task because it requires building an understanding of mechanisms operating at different levels of biological organization from genes to social interactions,” Page wrote in his abstract. “I discuss here, a unique forward genetic approach spanning more than 30 years beginning with human-assisted colony-level selection for a single social trait, the amount of pollen honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) store. The goal was to understand a complex social trait from the social phenotype to genes responsible for observed trait variation.”
“The approach,” Page wrote, “combined the results of colony-level selection with detailed studies of individual behavior and physiology resulting in a mapped, integrated phenotypic architecture composed of correlative relationships between traits spanning anatomy, physiology, sensory response systems, and individual behavior that affect individual foraging decisions. Colony-level selection reverse engineered the architecture of an integrated phenotype of individuals resulting in changes in the social trait. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) studies combined with an exceptionally high recombination rate (60 kb/cM), and a phenotypic map, provided a genotype–phenotype map of high complexity demonstrating broad QTL pleiotropy, epistasis, and epistatic pleiotropy suggesting that gene pleiotropy or tight linkage of genes within QTL integrated the phenotype. Gene expression and knockdown of identified positional candidates revealed genes affecting foraging behavior and confirmed one pleiotropic gene, a tyramine receptor, as a target for colony-level selection that was under selection in two different tissues in two different life stages. The approach presented here has resulted in a comprehensive understanding of the structure and evolution of honey bee social organization.”
Page, who received his doctorate in entomology (1980) from UC Davis, joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 1989, and chaired the department from 1999-2004. In 2004, Arizona State University recruited him as founding director of its School of Life Sciences. His career advanced from dean of Life Sciences, to vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to university provost. Today he holds the titles of ASU provost emeritus, ASU Regents professor emeritus, and UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor, an award bestowed in 2019.
For 24 years, from 1989 to 2015, Page maintained a UC Davis honey bee-breeding program, managed by bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Together they discovered a link between social behavior and maternal traits in bees.
In his article, he mentions: "I studied the behavioral genetics of pollen storage in honey bees for more than 30 years. The effort was collective with my technician and colleague Kim Fondrk and numerous students and postdoctoral researchers. We used a forward genetic approach and employed bidirectional, human-assisted selection that resulted in the establishment of two strains that varied in their expression of a social phenotype. We focused on just one trait, the amount of pollen stored in the nest, a social trait that is a consequence of the interactions of thousands of bees. There are about 10–40 thousand worker bees in a honey bee colony, depending on the time of year. Honey bee colonies have a reproductive division of labor where the single queen normally lays the eggs while the workers are facultatively sterile."
"Young larvae produce pheromones (chemical signals) that stimulate some of the foragers to collect pollen (Traynor et al. 2015)," he explained. "The amount of pollen stored, the number of cells that are full, affects the number of larvae that are raised and inhibits pollen foraging, thus stored pollen is regulated (Fewell and Winston 1992). Returning pollen foragers perform recruitment dances that communicate the distance and direction from the nest to their pollen sources. Other bees attend the dances and are recruited. So, the amount of stored pollen is dependent on the interactions of thousands of individual adults and larvae and is not a phenotypic trait of any individual—it is a social phenotype."
Page has authored than 250 research papers, including five books: among them, The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms of Social Evolution, published by Harvard University Press in 2013. His most recent book is The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment from Landscapes to Societies, published by Oxford University Press 2020. (See news release on why bees are both artists and engineers.)
Page is a highly cited author on such topics as Africanized bees, genetics and evolution of social organization, sex determination, and division of labor in insect societies.