Page, a UC Davis doctoral alumnus, a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, wrote an article The Art of the Bee for the journal, and editor Robert Brodschneider interviewed him in a piece titled Robert E. Page Jr--Mapper of the Genetic Architecture of the Honey Bee.
Rob lives and breathes bees, UC Davis, and Arizona State University (ASU). He obtained his doctorate in entomology in 1980 from UC Davis; joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989; and chaired the Department of Entomology from 1999 to 2004. After retiring from UC Davis in 2004, he accepted an appointment at ASU as founding director of the School of Life Sciences. He served as provost of ASU from 2013- 2015, and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 2011-2013.
His research on honey bee behavior and genetics appears in his publications: Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding (1997, with Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., his major professor at UC Davis and "the father of honey bee genetics"); The Spirit of the Hive, Harvard University Press (2013); and The Art of the Bee, Oxford University Press (2020). His 230-plus research papers have been cited more than 20,000 times.
Much of Rob Page's research occurred at UC Davis. For 24 years, from 1989 to 2015, he maintained a honey bee-breeding program, managed by bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk, at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Their contributions include discovering a link between social behavior and maternal traits in bees. Their work was featured in a cover story in the journal Nature. In all, Nature featured his work on four covers from work mostly done at UC Davis.
Looking to learn more about bees? You'll want to pick up a copy of his book, ;The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment from Landscapes to Societies, 2020, Oxford University Press), and/or access his newly created free YouTube channel, The Art of the Bee," at https://www.youtube.com/@artofthebee.
Why did Page create the free and accessible-to-all YouTube Channel? Because that's what Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), known as a German geographer, naturalist, explorer, and proponent of Romantic philosophy and science, would have done.
It's about making science understandable.
"Von Humboldt appealed to artists to learn about nature, and ecology, and paint it," Page wrote in the Bee World article. "He believed that artists and writers could do more to advance an understanding of science and nature than the scientific specialist. His plea was for making science understandable to the public, a plea for popular science."
Page's YouTube channel guides the viewer through "the fascinating biology and behavior of the bee," presented in 38 videos ranging from 4 to 27 minutes in length. He organized the videos into six segments that roughly correspond to the nine chapters of the book:
- Landscape Artists
- Environmental Engineers
- The Social Contract
- How to Make a Superorganism
- Song of the Queen.
We love this passage from his book:
"The impact of bees on our world is immeasurable. Bees are responsible for the evolution of the vast array of brightly-colored flowers and for engineering the niches of multitudes of plants, animals, and microbes. They've painted our landscapes with flowers through their pollination activities and have evolved the most complex societies to aid their exploitation of the environment."
We can learn so much from the bees...
Sometimes overlooked as pollinators are the syrphid flies, also known as "hover flies" or "flower flies."
Unfortunately, they are often mistaken for honey bees. Hey, if it's a critter on a flower, it's a bee, right?
Syrphid flies are easily distinguished from honey bees. Among the differences: (1) honey bees don't hover, (2) syrphids have only one pair of wings, while honey bees have two (3) syrphids have short, stubby antennae, while honey bees have long, bent antennae called genticulate antennae and (4) syrphids belong to the order Diptera, while honey bees are in the order Hymenoptera.
We spotted this syprhid fly soaking up some early-morning sun It stayed still for a dorsal photo and then sensing danger, slipped under a leaf.
Scientists estimate that there are more than 6200 species of syrphid flies in the world, and more than 3000 in California alone.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) has this to say about syprhids in its Natural Enemies Gallery post: "Adults are robust to slender flies 1/8 to 1 inch (4–25 mm) long, varying by species. The broad head is about the width of the abdomen or wider and has large eyes with distinct antennae. The body of many adults is black with bands or stripes of orange, yellow, or white, resembling stinging bees or wasps. Some species are mostly brown, metallic blue or green, yellow, or combinations of these or other colors. For example, adults of ant-predaceous Microdon species are blackish to brown or bright to dark greenish."
Many syrphids prey on aphids and mealybugs, so they're good guys and gals to have in your garden.
Says UC IPM: "Most species are predaceous, most commonly on aphids or mealybugs. Some syrphids prey on ants, caterpillars, froghoppers, psyllids, scales, other insects, or mites."
The good guys and gals of the garden...
And if you're part of the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), it takes a lot of worker bees from all facets to succeed.
We congratulate CAMBP for its well-deserved recognition at the recent UC Davis Staff Assembly's Citation of Excellence ceremony.
CAMBP director and founder Elina Lastro Niño, associate professor of Cooperative Extension and a member of UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, and co-program manager Wendy Mather won a Faculty-Staff Partnership Award.
Niño, UC Extension apiculturist since 2014, founded CAMBP in 2016. Mather joined the program in March of 2018. Also integral to the program is Kian Nikzad, but as a newer employee, was ineligible to be nominated.
The awards ceremony, held Sept. 12 in the International Center on campus, singled out “some of our most exceptional UC Davis individuals and teams,” Chancellor May said in his presentation.
Nominators of "The Bee Team" (Kathy Keatley Garvey, Nora Orozco and Tabatha Yang of Department of Entomology and Nematology) lauded Niño and Mather for providing a “program of learning, teaching, research, and public service, goes above and beyond in delivering comprehensive, science-based information about honey bees and honey bee health. They continually and consistently develop, improve, and refine their statewide curriculum that educates stewards in a train-the-trainer program to disseminate accurate, timely, and crucial information. Honey bees pollinate more than 30 California crops, including almonds, a $5 billion industry (no bees, no pollination, no almonds). Indeed, California produces more than a third of our country's vegetables and three-quarters of our fruits and nuts. However, colony losses are alarming due to pesticides, pests, predators and pathogens.”
As of Sept. 15, 2023, CAMBP has donated 34,000 hours of volunteer time and served 209,000 individuals in education, outreach and beekeeping mentorship. If a volunteer hour were to be calculated at $26.87, CAMBP has given $913,580 back to California in service of science-based beekeeping and honey bee health.
Its website, accessible to the public, offers a list of classes and knowledge-based information, including backyard beekeeping, bees in the neighborhood, bees and beekeeping regulations, defensive bees, live honey bee removals, and protecting pollinators.
“Bottom line,” the nominators concluded, “our ‘B' Team is really an ‘A' Team, an outstanding example of UC Davis teaching, research and service; a team providing exemplary service and contributions; and a team that creates and maintains high morale and embodies the Principles of Community.”
Joint Statement. In a joint statement following the awards ceremony, Mather and Nikzad said: “We share this award with our passionate and caring member volunteers. Our members are deeply committed to honey bee health, science-based beekeeping practices, and, most importantly, to each other. Their enthusiasm and dedication drive our mission forward. We wish to acknowledge Elina Niño for her visionary leadership; she has brought together various stakeholders, including growers, bee breeders, commercial, sideline, and hobbyist beekeepers, as well as the general public, through CAMBP, UC Davis, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE). We missed having her at the ceremony.”
Well deserved! A tip of the bee veil to CAMBP! You're smokin'
(See full-length news story and more images on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website)
But it's not going to happen.
So here we are in our Vacaville pollinator garden, looking at the Chinese forget-me-nots. We see honey bees, leafcutter bees, syrphid flies, lady beetles, cabbage white butterflies, and other critters foraging. It's National Pollinator Week.
And then we see a pinkish caterpillar munching away on one of the sky-blue blossoms. He's a very hungry caterpillar. Did we say "hungry?" He's ravenous. Absolutely ravenous!
It's a tobacco budworm, Heliothis virescens, as identified by UC Davis distinguished professor Art Shapiro, an expert on Lepidopterans who has monitored butterfly populations in central California since 1972--and also studies moths. (See his butterfly website.)
In its adult stage, the tobacco budworm will become a moth. (If we let it!)
In its larval stage, it can vary in color from pale green to pink to dark red to maroon, according to a University of Florida entomological fact sheet.
"Tobacco budworm is principally a field crop pest, attacking such crops as alfalfa, clover, cotton, flax, soybean, and tobacco," the University of Florida entomologists related. "However, it sometimes attacks such vegetables as cabbage, cantaloupe, lettuce, pea, pepper, pigeon pea, squash, and tomato, especially when cotton or other favored crops are abundant. Tobacco budworm is a common pest of geranium and other flower crops such as ageratum, bird of paradise, chrysanthemum, gardenia, geranium, petunia, mallow, marigold, petunia, snapdragon, strawflower, verbena, and zinnia."
Naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum of Entomology associate, remembers rearing one that he plucked from his geraniums a few years ago. We are not going to rear this one. Tobacco budworms are not our buddies.
This afternoon honey bees tried to push the pest away. They did not succeed.
Tomorrow the California scrub jays nesting and chirping in the cherry laurels probably will!
But a truck driver who deliberately plows through a bee yard on private property and crushes 40 colonies?
But that's what happened last week to bee scientist Caroline Yelle, owner of Pope Canyon Queens, LLC, Winters. Under cover of darkness, a truck driver drove over and destroyed her bee hives, located in a remote rural orchard outside the community.
To try to recoup her loss, her friends urged her to post a Go Fund Me page. It's now online at https://gofund.me/d3422c15 with a goal of $3000.
Yelle is one of the nation's few women-owned queen bee breeder businesses; she established the business in 2013 at age 25. A native of Canada, she mainly breeds Carniolans, Apis mellifera carnica, a subspecies of the western honey bee and "a hybrid that we selected in Canada and we reproduce here in California for stronger genes." She keeps bees in Winters, Vacaville and Napa.
Her mission, as posted on her Pope Canyon Queens website "is to improve the genetic quality of queen bees available to commercial breeders in North America by combining exceptional knowledge and expertise with robust genetics. Our breeding program is pioneering bee genetics through specialized selection, genetic diversification and high quality nutrition. Our process ensures that queens produced through our breeding program breed offspring which are better able to defend themselves against the many killers of today's bee population; mites, viruses, bacteria, pesticides, commercial beekeeping stresses, pollution, depleting floral diversity, and our world's ever-changing ecosystems. The decline in the world's bee population is unprecedented, making our work urgently necessary. We are rising to the challenge and breeding a better tomorrow."
“I have dedicated my life since I'm 16 years old to beekeeping and helping the community by choosing every day to help save our pollinators,” Yelle wrote on the Go Fund Me page.
The truck driver deliberately killed thousands of her bees “just for the sake of it, on private property." She scooped up dead bees, broken boxes, empty cans of beer, hard liquor and energy drinks, and other trash the vandals left behind.
The donations won't replace the bees that died that day, but “your contributions could help us to replace the boxes and set us up to replace the colonies,” she noted. If donations exceed the $3000 goal, Pope Valley Queens "will be putting all your donations toward our queen breeding program to help us developing more tools and resources for the bees.”
The deliberate destruction of someone's livelihood drew irate comments, and rightfully so, on the Facebook page, Winters Community Info and Tips. Some addressed the importance of bees. Wrote one person: "I think our community knows very well how important bees are and I'm so sorry to hear what happened to yours. I hope police will find the culprits and you will at least be reimbursed for your losses. In this case we all lose!"
This is not Caroline Yelle's first major bee loss. On Aug. 19, 2020, Yelle, then 28, lost 500 hives when the lightning-sparked Hennessey Fire swept through rural Vacaville, destroying the home she lived in on Quail Valley Road, Vacaville, as well as most of her business.
Yelle is a close associate of bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of Washington State University, former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis; and bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk, retired from the Laidlaw facility, UC Davis.
Yelle and Cobey talk about bees on Civil Eats: https://civileats.com/2022/04/20/civil-eats-tv-let-them-bee/