The day originated back in the 1800s as a way to recognize and thank farmers for all the work they do to feed our nation--and the world.
It's also time to thank a beekeeper.
When beekeeper Kim Flottum of northeast Ohio, the 30-year editor of Bee Culture, addressed the recent Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference at UC Davis, he predicted that the nation's 250,000 beekeepers (who manage around 4 million colonies) will turn into a million beekeepers in five years.
A million. We can only hope!
Flottum applauded "the incredible rise of new beekeepers in the last 10 years."
"The urban, surburban and country beekeepers are younger than the norm and we have more women beekeepers than ever," said Flottum, who launched the magazine, BEEKeeping, Your First Three Years, two years ago. "This isn't like the 1970s Green Movement--I'm old enough to remember that. It's got legs! But watch out for an ugly urban disaster like a major beespill or bad honey recall."
Beekeepers are becoming more and more diverse, specializing in honey production, pollination services and queen bee breeding. Pollination services and queen bee breeding are the most profitable, Flottum said. Honey, not so much.
"If I'm in beekeeping, pollination services is sure bet," he said. "Beekeepers now get 200 bucks a colony for almond pollination in California. Pollination is more profitable than honey. Bee breeding? Queens can sell for as much as $40 or $50."
"In the United States, we eat on the average 1.2 pounds a year, but in Canada, it's 2.5 or 2.4 pounds." He lamented that unsafe and/or questionable honey from China floods our nation's supermarkets and is being sold at undercut prices. (Some statistics indicate that a "third or more of all the honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals"--Food Safety News.)
It's important for American beekeepers to label their honey "Made in America" or localize it by city or state, he said.
Flottum also touched on such issues as honey bee health, nutrition, loss of habitat, poor quality forage, and pesticides.
The varroa mite/virus is the No. 1 problem for beekeepers, he said. "Other stresses include nutrition, nosema, pesticides...All of these can be fixed with money, increased diversity of bee stock, and a move way from both ag and in-hive legal and illegal chemicals."
Meanwhile, thankfully, the appreciation of honey bees seems to be growing. Brought here in 1622 by European colonists in Jamestown, Va., bees now pollinate about one-third of the food we eat.
Happy Farmers' Day. Happy Beekeepers' Day.
(Editor's Note: Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and her colleagues at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, teach beekeeping and bee health workshops. See the Niño lab at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/. The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is hosting a two-day course on honey, Nov. 10-11.)
Then think of watermelons and pumpkins.
All those crops will be discussed in a series of free webinars on Ensuring Crop Pollination in U.S. Specialty Crops, set Jan. 24 through March 28.
The webinars will feature five researchers with the Integrated Crop Pollination Project (ICP), including ICP co-principal investigator and pollination ecologist Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. They are free and open to the public. Each will be 45 minutes to 60 minutes long.
Coordinating the series are Katharina Ullmann, national crop pollination specialist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and Extension apiculturist and professor John Skinner of the University of Tennessee. Closely linked to UC Davis, Ullmann received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Williams.
"The majority of U.S. specialty crop growers depend on bees for pollination of their crops," Ullmann said. "Growers know that without adequate pollination, they would not be profitable. But what are the best pollination strategies for fruit, vegetable, and nut crops? What farm management practices can growers use to support bees and the crop pollination they provide?"
First to present will be Theresa Pitts-Singer, who collaborates with Williams. She will discuss Ensuring Almond Pollination on Jan. 24 and also deliver the ending seminar on March 28 on How to Manage Solitary Orchard Bees for Crop Pollination.
Williams will speak Feb. 28 on On-Farm Pollinator Benefits for Watermelon Pollination. An associate professor of pollination and biology and a Chancellor's Fellow, Williams serves as the faculty co-director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and is a member of UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute. His applied research addresses the integration of wild and managed bees for pollination of diverse agricultural crops including seed production, row crops and orchards.
His research addresses a series of questions:
- Under what contexts, in terms of local management and landscape context, can native pollinators provide sufficient pollination for different crops?
- How can we enhance habitat and diversify agricultural systems to promote managed and wild bees?
- Do pollinators like honey bees and wild bees interact in ways to increase the overall effectiveness of crop pollination?
The answers to these questions will help alleviate the stress placed on honey bees, Williams says, and also "inform ways to more sustainability manage agricultural systems to promote biodiversity and production."
Williams has worked extensively in agro-ecosystems in California's Central Valley and in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. His work in the East and West has helped form the basis for pollinator conservation planting guidelines. A continuing goal, he says, is to provide practical information that can be used to improve the long-term stability of pollination for agriculture in California, as well as promote pollinator conservation and management.
All speakers will discuss their research, and engage with the audience in discussing pollination of wild bees, honey bees and other managed bees in almond, blueberry, tree fruit, pumpkin, and watermelon. Each registered attendee will later receive a link to the slides.
To register, attendees can click on each link (note that all times here are 11 a.m., Pacific Time (consult your time zone):
- Jan. 24: Ensuring Almond Pollination (Theresa Pitts-Singer, USDA-ARS and Utah State University)
- Jan. 31: Pollinating Highbush Blueberries: Bees Bring Bigger Berries (Rufus Isaacs, Michigan State University)
- Feb. 14: Pollinating Apples and Cherries East of the Rockies (Julianna Wilson, Michigan State University)
- Feb. 28: On-Farm Pollinator Benefits for Watermelon Pollination (Neal Williams, University of California, Davis)
- March 21: Ensuring Pumpkin Pollination (Shelby Fleischer, Pennsylvania State University)
- March 28: How to Manage Solitary Orchard Bees for Crop Pollination (Theresa Pitts-Singer, USDA-ARS and Utah State University)
The webinar series will be hosted by eXtension.org, an online Cooperative Extension network. Funding will be provided by the Integrated Crop Pollination Project, a USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Grant (#2012-51181-20105). Plans are to offer continuing education credits for certified crop advisors.
The 4-H Youth Development Program is an incredible opportunity for youths to learn new skills, make new friends, and become involved in leadership activities and community service projects. It's all about "Making the Best Better" and "Learn by Doing."
One of the scores of projects 4-H'ers can enroll in is entomology. That would include beekeeping!
But you don't have to be a beekeeper or be enrolled in an entomology project to enter the statewide bee essay contest. You just have to be a 4-H'er.
"Every year The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, Inc. runs a contest for the 4-Hers and this year is no exception," wrote Extension Apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in her current newsletter. "California 4-H members have participated in this national contest organized by Dr. Eric Mussen (Extension apiculturist for 38 years before his retirement in June of 2014) on the state level. Last year Dr. Mussen passed the torch onto me, but I was a little disappointed that I received no essays from the California 4-H members. So let's see if we can get your creativity buzzing."
This year's essay theme is "Bees and Pollination: How Important Is It?" Niño urges California 4-H'ers to "put your pens to paper (or fingers on your keyboard) and start telling everyone else just how important bees and pollination are to our own wellbeing." Or maybe well-bee-ing.
The deadline to submit the essays (750 and 1000 words) to Niño is Feb. 15, right after Valentine's Day. Her email is an easy one to remember, especially when El Niño is visiting us. It's firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contest details are at http://preservationofhoneybees.org/essays#rules-overview-2. Essays from previous years are also posted.
"And if you need more motivation, every state's winner receives a book about bees and beekeeping," Niño says, "and the national winners receive a nice sum of money that they can put in their piggy banks. "
Yes. Each state winner goes on to compete at the national level. The national champion wins $750, while the second and third place winners will receive $500 and $250, respectively. Plus, there's another incentive: the national-winning essays will be published in the American Beekeeping Federation's newsletter.
"Pollination and Protecting Pollinators" is a 51-minute documentary by Washington State University (WSU) Cooperative Extension that explores how valuable honey bees are, why they're crucial, and what we need to do to protect them.
County Director Timothy Lawrence of Island County, WSU Extension, served as the co-executive producer of the documentary, as well as the writer and the primary narrator.
The Whidbey News-Times, in its May 23, 2010 edition, described Lawrence as an expert on honey bee health:
"Tim Lawrence has the credentials of an old-school extension services director, with a master's degree in rural sociology, a doctorate in environmental sciences and 20 years of experience working with extension programs in three states."
Some background: Tim and his wife, noted WSU bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, were formerly based at the University of California, Davis, where Cobey served as the manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Together they operated a commercial queen production business, Vaca Valley Apiaries, in Vacaville, Solano County.
But back to the documentary.
You'll learn about pollen, nectar and how pollen is transferred. You'll learn why honey bees are considered the best of all the pollinators but why honey bees are not the "best pollinators for some crops" and why.
You'll learn about almond pollination, along with many of the other crops that require bee pollination, including apples, cherries, plums, blueberries and cranberries. No bees? No almonds. No bees? No cranberries.
You'll learn who developed the Langstroth Hive and why it's important. Hint: the Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth (1810-1895) discovered "bee space." You'll learn what "bee space" is.
You'll learn what Moses Quinby of New York did. Hint: Quinby (1810-1875) is considered the first commercial beekeeper in the United States. You'll learn how many hives he maintained in the Mohawk Valley region of New York.
You'll learn why Lawrence says "we won't starve if bees disappear."
And finally, you'll learn what you can do to help the bees.
"Do your part and we can all do this together," Lawrence says. Good advice. And timely advice as we begin the new year.
You can watch the video at https://vimeo.com/146957716.
When entomologist Jeff Smith, a volunteer associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, was showing elementary school students the museum's moth and butterfly collection, a boy took one look at a drawer of south African butterflies and exclaimed "They look just like penguins!"
They're just one of the species of butterflies in the 400,000-specimen Lepitoptera collection that Smith curates. He has spread the wings of 200,000 butterflies and moths since 1988 for the Bohart. He does incredible work.
Said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis: "Also, we are borrowing specimens of pollinating birds, bats and lemurs from the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology to cover non-insect pollinators, which should be fun." The event is free and open to the public. Specialists will be on hand to answer questions.
Many of the butterflies are simply breathtaking. Some, like the bright blue Morphocpress cyanide, will elicit a "Wow!" or maybe a double or triple "Wow!" As will the owl butterfly.
And if you haven't seen a single monarch butterfly yet this year, not to worry. You'll see dozens of specimens at the Bohart.
(Note: If you can't make it to the open house on March 14, the Bohart Museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It's closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Home of nearly eight million specimens, the Bohart houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M.Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum. Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects and photograph them. The museum's gift shop includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy. More information is available by accessing the website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/; or telephoning (530) 752-9493; or emailing email@example.com.)