Staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk worked with and assisted photographer Anand Varma's needs for a year in the development of the illustrated article. Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen, who retired last June after 38 years of service, served as a research fact-checker, contacted by National Geographic.
The article, authored by Charles Mann asked “Can the world's most important pollinators be saved?' and pondered “how scientists and breeders are trying to create a hardier honeybee.”
Varma's time-lapse video of 2500 images, showing the development of eggs to pupae to adults, was filmed at the Laidlaw apiary. Two still photos, of a bee in flight, and a close-up of an emerging worker bee, were also taken in the Laidlaw apiary.
In his article, Mann touches on RNAi and quotes bee researcher Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” as saying “If you target one specific area, the organism will always make an end run around it.” She advocates a “healthier, stronger” bee, or what Mann writes as “one that can fight (varroa) mites and disease on its own, without human assistance.”
Spivak was the keynote speaker at the Bee Symposium, hosted May 9 by the Honey and Pollination Center in the UC Davis Conference Center. It drew a crowd of 360.
Spivak and John Harbo of the USDA's research center in Baton Rouge, La. “both succeeded in breeding versions of hygienic bees by the late 1990s,” Mann writes. “A few years after that, scientists realized that hygienic bees are less effective as the mites grow more numerous.”
Both Spivak and Varma have presented TED talks on honey bees.
Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will offer a two-day queen-rearing techniques short course, March 28-29 in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis campus.
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño will teach the course, assisted by co-instructors, staff research associates Bernardo Niño and Billy Synk.
“This course is perfect for those who have some beekeeping experience and would like to move on to the next step of rearing their own queens or maybe even trying their luck at bee breeding,” Elina Lastro Niño said.
Topics will include honey bee queen biology, basics of selective honey bee breeding programs, various queen-rearing techniques, hygienic behavior testing, and assessment of varroa mite levels.
Participants will have the opportunity to learn about and practice multiple methods for queen rearing. “We will go through a step-by-step process for queen rearing via grafting, including setting up cell buildings and mating nucs,” she said.
At the end of the course, participants will be able to check their grafting success and local participants can take their grafted queen cells from their practice exercises, back to their apiaries. The participants also will learn techniques for assessing varroa loads in colonies and evaluate hygienic behavior.
The course is limited to 14 participants. It will include lectures, hands-on exercises, and a tour of the department's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee, located next to the facility.
The $200 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a set of grafting equipment, grafting frame with bars, plastic queen cups and a grafting tool); breakfast, lunch and refreshments.
Participants will be responsible for obtaining their own lodging. For directions, visit http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/qrtsc.html. For more information on registering for the short course, contact Bernardo Niño at email@example.com
Those are a few of the hands-on activities that will take place in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's insect booth in the Floriculture Building during the May 8-11 Dixon May Fair. The fairgrounds are located at 655 S. First St., Dixon.
Entomologists, researchers, beekeepers and honey experts will be among those staffing the booth and answering questions from fairgoers.
The interactive exhibit will include a bee observation hive from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility; specimens and live insects from the Bohart Museum of Entomology; insect posters from the recent UC Davis Picnic Day, and information about the Honey and Pollination Center.
Entomologist Jeff Smith of Rocklin, a 27-year volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, will be at the fair from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Visitors can hold a 22-year-old rose-haired tarantula, one of the most popular insects at the Bohart Museum open houses. Other live insects are scheduled to include Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks.
Smith worked in pest management for two years and then worked for Univar USA for the next 35, up to his retirement in 2013. Univar is the leading national supplier of the full range of pest control products to the professional pest management industries. Twenty-three of those years were in sales and the last 12 years with the E-business group, creating resources and training on the website PestWeb.com. Smith has written many training manuals and taught thousands of classes in pest management.
Now he fully pursues his passion for Lepidoptera (a large order of insects that includes moths and butterflies), with the Bohart Museum of Entomology, where he has managed and improved the Lepidoptera collection for the past 27 years as a volunteer. He studied and collected insects on 10 excursions to Latin American rainforest areas.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is the global home of nearly eight million insect specimens. Exhibits at the Dixon May Fair will focus on wing diversity; insects of California (10 orders (includes dragonflies and true bugs), butterflies and other insects of the world, and predators and parasites.
Among others scheduled to participate are:
Billy Synk, staff research associate and manager of the Laidlaw facility. He will provide the bee observation hive, where visitors can look through the glass and find the queen bee, worker bees and drones and observe colony activity. He will answer questions from fairgoers from 11 to 4 p.m. Friday, May 9.
Cameron Jasper, a graduate student in the lab of Brian Johnson, assistant professor of entomology. He studies the genetic basis of division of labor in the honey bee. He is scheduled to be at the booth from 4 to 6 p.m., Friday, May 9. Jasper studies the genetic basis of division of labor in honey bee.
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, headquartered in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. She will be at the fair from 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 10 and help youngsters make bee/flower puppets.
The Honey and Pollination Center showcases the importance of honey and pollination s through education and research. The center works with all aspects of the beekeeping industry, including agriculture, grocers and chefs, beekeepers and future beekeepers, urban homesteaders and students.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology was ranked No. 1 in the country, in rankings released in 2007 by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The ratings have not been updated.
Häagen-Dazs has come up with a creative way to do so and it involves downloading a free concerto timer app on your I-Phone or I-Pad, pointing it at the lid of the brand's ice cream, and listening to a two-minute concerto until the ice cream is softened or tempered.
Two minutes is perfect for allowing the ice cream to soften or temper, the ice cream specialists say.
For every download of the concerto timer, Häagen-Dazs will donate $5 toward UC Davis bee research, up to $75,000.
Häagen-Dazs, in announcing (Aug. 8) the introduction of the Häagen-Dazs Concerto Timer app, described it as "the first iOS mobile app to integrate detailed 3D Kinect technology and video data that delivers a cutting edge augmented reality experience."
According to a press release, “The Concerto Timer app features two-minute-long music concertos that help consumers understand the exact amount of time needed to prepare their Häagen-Dazs ice cream in order to get the full, rich consistency and allow all the flavors to fully bloom. Allowing the ice cream to soften slightly – also called tempering – for two minutes enhances the texture and exposes fans to the craftsmanship of premium ingredients that is characteristic of Häagen-Dazs ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt."
Said Cady Behles, Häagen-Dazs brand manager: “The app concept came directly from our brand loyalists who recognized the necessity of tempering to enjoy all of the flavors in our ice cream. We took their feedback and developed an advanced mobile experience – something never seen before in the ice cream industry – that would be functional and also entertain them during the optimal time period.”
"Traditionally, augmented reality technology has involved flat video or low polygon 3D objects with a very limited and robotic range of motion," according to the news release. "Unlike other augmented reality apps, the Concerto Timer app integrates detailed 3D Kinect and video data."
"The app captures the nuances of the real violin and cello performances, enhanced with expressive particles, resulting in an ethereal and unique creative style. This approach allows the musicians to move with a fluid natural motion in 3D space."
Some 50 percent of Häagen-Dazs flavors are honey-bee dependent. “Honey bee colonies – which are responsible for one third of the world’s food supply — are dying at an alarming rate, posing a serious risk to our natural food supply, including many of the ingredients that define Häagen-Dazs ice cream,” according to the press release.
Häagen-Dazs has a long partnership with UC Davis. It launched the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden that was planted in 2009 next to the Laidlaw facility. The brand also funded Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow, Michelle Flenniken, an insect virus researcher formerly based at UC San Francisco. She is now a research assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, Montana State University.
That question challenged 4-H’ers entering the 2013 National 4-H Beekeeping Essay Contest, sponsored by the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, Jesup, Ga. Essay coordinators urged the 4-H’ers to gather information from scientists, beekeepers, farmers, gardeners and other sources.
Elise Dunning, 14, a home-schooled eighth grader from Enumclaw, Wash., sought out staff research associate Billy Synk of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, as a key resource for her 967-word essay.
In a telephone interview, she "asked me a little about beekeeping but more about how pesticides are used and how that relates to toxicity and colony collapse disorder issues," Synk said.
Dunning went on to win the first-place award of $750 in a contest that drew state-winning essays from 21 states. Each state winner advances to the nationals.
Dunning's other sources included PBS Nature, The Silence of the Bees, 2007; beekeepers Wade Bennett and Dennis Carlson of Enumclaw; and the book, How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides, (Pacific Northwest Extension Publication, 2006) by Helmut Riedl, Erik Johansen, Linda Brewer and Jim Barbour.
“Imagine yourself in the blistering heat, wishing you were sipping lemonade and watching the honey bees buzz about,” began Dunning. “Instead, you are painstakingly hand-pollinating every single bloom with a wand composed of chicken feathers and bamboo. This is a completely alien idea to many of us. China, though, has succumbed to this fate of hand-pollination after their honey bees disappeared.”
“Honey bees are mysteriously vanishing worldwide. Although there are many theories concerning their disappearance, there is strong evidence that pesticide use is one contributing factor. If we wish to save this exceptional insect that many of us are hasty to shoo away, our use of pesticides needs to significantly change. Working together to accomplish this goal, beekeepers, growers, and homeowners can raise public awareness of honey bee health, scrupulously follow application guidelines, and consider choosing natural alternatives to pesticides.”
“Many people don’t realize how much we depend on honey bees. Incredibly, about one-third of everythingon our table is a result of honey bee pollination. This includes nuts, fruits, flowers in our centerpiece vases, and even most of our dairy, since cows feed on honey bee-pollinated crops such as alfalfa.If more people recognize how much the honey bee contributes to our lifestyles, they will likely be more thoughtful with their chemical use.”
Dunning also advocated communication. “Start a conversation with your friends and family about saving the honey bee! Plan a wildflower-planting day, discuss using natural alternatives, or set a date to shop for pesticides listed as safe for honey bees! …Increasing public awareness of the honey bee’s peril and importance in our lives can inspire anyone to become a honey bee rescuer.”
Dunning acknowledged that chemicals are often used on plants and in bee hives. “However, the choices we make about which chemicals, when to apply, and how to apply them could make a huge difference in the honey bee’s survival. When choosing pesticides, it is a good idea to avoid those which have a residual hazard longer than eight hours. There are three insecticides that are primarily responsible for bee poisoning: organophosphates, n-methyl carbamates, and neonicotinoids.The organophosphate is in many cases no longer available and was originally developed for chemical warfare during World War I. Chemicals are often unavoidable with crop production, but there are many things growers can do to make their application more bee-friendly.
“One of the most straightforward steps we can take to protect our honey bees is to meticulously follow pesticide application instructions and guidelines. For example, since honey bees only forage during the day, spraying a pesticide in the evening that would not leave a toxic residue by morning could help reduce bee deaths.Another precaution that could be taken before applying a toxic pesticide with a long residual life is to ask neighboring beekeepers to move or confine their bees temporarily. Despite the inconvenience, it is worth it to protect honey bees from exposure to chemicals.
Dunning also advocated that beekeepers try to use “at least one” natural alternative to pesticides in their hives. “Although there are many pesticides available for this issue, natural alternatives, many of which are common household items, can work instead,” she wrote. She noted that 20-year beekeeper Dennis Carlson, owner of Dr. D’s Bees, Enumclaw, uses powdered sugar to remove mites from inside his hives; and 25-year beekeeper Wade Bennett, owner of Rockridge Orchards, “uses a unique alternative to eliminate mites, which includes sprinkling dried, ground up honey into his hives. He also uses mint oil to rid his bees of trachea mites. Natural alternatives definitely pose fewer risks to bees than pesticides. In my opinion, everyone should use at least one substitute to help save the honey bee.”
“Our pesticide use,” the 4-H’er related, “is one reason for the honey bee decline, and using natural alternatives as well as being careful to follow rules for chemical application can help alter the effects.”
“Most importantly, though, speaking out and spreading awareness of the honey bee’s jeopardy can save this bee from toxic chemicals. Our actions and day to day choices, whether chatting with family or applying chemicals to our yards, need to be carried out with the honey bee in mind.”
Dunning lives with parents, younger brother, two dogs and two frogs in Enumclaw. Her interests include 4-H dog care and training, reading, spelling bees, and gymnast activities.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology judges the California state level of the contest and frequently answers questions about bees.