Niño, known internationally for her expertise on honey bee queen biology, chemical ecology, and genomics, joined the faculty in September of 2014 and maintains laboratories and offices in Briggs Hall and at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Niño serves as the director of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), which she launched in 2016. The California Master Beekeeper Program is a continuous train-the-trainer effort. CAMBP's vision is to train beekeepers to 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 staff.
Niño is also the faculty director of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the department's half-acre educational bee garden located next to the Laidlaw facility, which serves as the outdoor classroom for the Pollinator Education Program, lovingly known as PEP.
“My research interests are fluid and designed to address immediate needs of various agriculture stakeholder groups,” she writes on her website. “Projects encompass both basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding queen mating and reproductive processes, discovery and evaluation of novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, and evaluating orchard management practices with a goal of improving honey bee health. Some of our more fun projects revolve around precision beekeeping and investigate the use of cutting edge technologies to make beekeeping more efficient and sustainable.”
Niño says she “greatly enjoys working with the community and especially with children. To ensure that our future researchers, agriculture leaders and innovators and future voters understand the importance of honey bees and other pollinators to our agroecosystems.”
“Our Pollinator Education Program at the Häagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven garden has been working with the Farms of Amador County to serve third grade students and we are planning on expanding our efforts in the near future and as the pandemic hopefully resolves.”
Niño received her bachelor's degree in animal science from Cornell University in 2003; her master's degree in entomology at North Carolina State University in 2006; and her doctorate at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in 2012. She served as a postdoctoral fellow, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), as a member of the PSU Center for Pollinator Research.
Niño has a varied entomology background. While working on her bachelor's degree at Cornell, she was involved in studies on darkling beetle control in poultry houses, pan-trapped horse flies, and surveyed mosquitoes in New York state. While working toward her master's degree at North Carolina State University, she studied dung beetle nutrient cycling and its effect on grass growth, effects of methoprene (insect grown regular) on dung beetles in field and laboratory settings, and assisted in a workshop on forensic entomology.
And that they did, under the tutelage and watchful eyes of Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, director of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB) and CAMPB educational supervisor Bernardo Niño, a staff research assistant in the E. L. Niño lab at the University of California, Davis.
The 23 participants in the short course, "Planning Ahead for Your First Hives," gathered at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road to spend a Saturday learning all about bees via lectures and hands-on activities.
They learned about honey bee biology, the components of a hive and where to place the hive. Then they donned bee veils and stepped outside to the apiary to learn hive inspection basics. They returned to the classroom for lunch and a Powerpoint presentation on "Keeping Bees Year-Around."
Highlights included opening a hive and engaging in queen wrangling, hands-on activities (holding a frame and identifying the queen, worker bees and drones), and varroa mite monitoring. The participants also examined several different types of the hives in the apiary, including the traditional Langstroth hive, Kenya top bar hive or horizontal top bar-hive, Warré hive and a flow hive. The short course ended with a session on "Save us from the hive intruders!" and a question-and-answer period.
CAMPB also hosted a short course the next day on "Working Your Colonies." Participants learned what is necessary to maintain a healthy colony. Lectures covered advanced honey bee biology, honey bee integrated pest management, and products of the hive. Participants also learned about queen wrangling, honey extraction, splitting/combined colonies, and monitoring for varroa mites.
Both courses drew maximum enrollment. "The classes were excellent," commented Wendy Mather, program manager of CAMPB. "We received really great feedback and the participants were thrilled to get the in-hive experience. And we got to sample some melipona honey (from stingless bees) from the Yucatán, as one of our participants had recently returned from a trip there."
The participants "now have some science-based knowledge and skills about honey bees and beekeeping that they can confidently share," Mather said.
Honey bee scientist Elina Lastro Niño, the statewide Extension apiculturist and member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty since 2014, conducts bee classes throughout much of the year. She is known for her expertise on honey bee queen biology, chemical ecology, and genomics. She holds a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University (PSU), where she served as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Christina Grozinger, director of the PSU Center for Pollinator Research.
The California Master Beekeeping Program uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. Check the website schedule for classes or contact Mather at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
“I am basically all pro-bee; whatever I can do for bees, I do it,” Mussen told the American Bee Journal in a two-part interview published in 2011. “It doesn't matter whether there is one hive in the backyard or 15,000 colonies. Bees are bees and the bees' needs are the bees' needs.”
Today a nationally awarded plaque “bee-speaks” of his work.
Mussen is the recipient of the 2018 Founders' Award from the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, presented Jan. 12 at the 75th annual American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) conference in Reno.
“He received a well-deserved rousing standing ovation!” said president Gene Brandi of Los Banos, who presented him with the plaque and praised him as a outstanding liaison between the academic world of apiculture and real world beekeeping and crop pollination.
Considered by his peers as one of the most respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation, Mussen was known as the “pulse on the bee industry” and as "the go-to person" for consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media. Mussen retired in 2014 but continues answering bee questions. As an emeritus, he maintains an office in Briggs Hall, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Previous recipients of the coveted award include the husband-wife team of James and Maryann Frazier, professor and Extension apiculturist, respectively, from Pennsylvania State University, University Park; former research leader Jeff Pettis, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beltsville (Md.) Bee Laboratory; and multi-state commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg of Hackenberg Apiaries, who sounded the alarm about colony collapse disorder (CCD) in 2007.
Mussen, recipient of numerous state and national awards, has been described as the “premier authority on bees and pollination in California, and is one of the top beekeeping authorities nationwide" and “a treasure to the beekeeping industry... he is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to honey bees."
Mussen served as a longtime board member of the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and a consultant for the Almond Board of California. He co-founded the Western Apicultural Society (WAS), serving six terms as president, the last one during the 40th anniversary meeting at UC Davis in 2017. He also was involved in the formation of the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA) and held the offices of president or treasurer of that association for many years.
Mussen was instrumental in the development of the Almond Board of California's Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds. The Almond Board earlier honored him with a service award, describing him as being an “authoritative and trusted source for guidance on research, technical, and practical problem solving and issues facing both industries.”
Shortly after he retired, both the CSBA and WAS created an Eric Mussen Honorary Award to present to its outstanding members.
For 38 years, Mussen wrote and published the bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, and short, topical articles called Bee Briefs, providing beekeepers with practical information on all aspects of beekeeping. His research focused on managing honey bees and wild bees for maximum field production, while minimizing pesticide damage to pollinator populations.
Mussen worked closely with Cooperation Extension, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Farm Bureau Federation, researchers in the UC system, researchers at the USDA/ARS honey bee laboratories at Beltsville, Md.; Baton Rouge, La.; Tucson, Ariz., Weslaco, Texas, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
Highly sought by the news media for his expertise on bees, Mussen has appeared on the Lehrer Hour, BBC, Good Morning America, and quoted in the New York Times, National Public Radio, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times, among others.
“Eric is a worldwide authority on honey bees, but no problem is too small and no question too involved for him to answer,” said the late Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey prior to Mussen's retirement. “He devotes his research and extension activities to the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices. Eric helps growers, consumers, UC Farm Advisors, agricultural commissioners, scientists, beekeepers, researchers, pesticide regulators, 4-H'ers, and state and national agricultural and apicultural organizations. He ignites their interest in maintaining the health of bees, cultivates their friendship, and generously gives of his time and intellect.”
Highly honored by his peers, Mussen received the 2006 California Beekeeper of the Year award, the American Association of Professional Apiculturists' 2007 Award of Excellence in Extension Apiculture, the 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America; the 2010 statewide Pedro Ilic Outstanding Agricultural Educator, and was a member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the 2013 team award from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
His other awards include the 2013 Alexander Hodson Graduate Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota; and the 2014 Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Extension from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
As Extension apiculturist, he served on various committees and task forces of state and national organizations, reviewed numerous manuscripts for journals; reviewed annual research proposals to the California State Beekeepers' Association, the Almond Board of California, and the National Honey Board; and reviewed Small Business Innovation Research applications at the federal level. He assisted U.S. beekeepers in writing letters to receive compensation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their CCD bee losses.
During his tenure as Extension apiculturist, Mussen traveled to beekeeping clubs throughout the state, addressing some 20 beekeeping organizations a year. For the last 10 years, Mussen conducted the California State 4-H Bee Essay Contest, disseminating guidelines, collecting entries and chairing the judging.
A native of Schenectady, N.Y., Mussen credits his grandfather with sparking his interest in insects. His grandfather, a self-taught naturalist, would take his young grandson to the woods to point out flora and fauna. As a child, “my only concern was what if, by the time I went to college and became an entomologist, everything we wanted to know about insects was known,” Mussen related.
Mussen turned down a football scholarship at Harvard to attend the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in entomology. This is also where he met Helen, his wife of 48 years. He holds a master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. His doctoral research focused on the epidemiology of a viral disease of larval honey bees, sacbrood virus. "During those studies I also was involved in studies concerning sunflower pollination and control of a microsporidian parasite of honey bees, Nosema apis," Mussen recalled. "Now a new species of Nosema has displaced N. apis and is even more difficult to keep subdued."
William Hutchison, professor and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota, commented in 2013 that Mussen tackled many new challenges--mites, diseases, and Africanized honey bees, to name a few--to enhance the pollination success of California's diverse agricultural cropping systems, with considerable emphasis on almonds. In brief, he is in demand, and he continues to be a primary source for objective information on honey bee health and pollination in California.”
Today, in between his family commitments (he and his wife have two sons and two grandchildren) Mussen engages in birding, singing doo-wop and reviewing grant proposals: he reviews funding proposals for Project Apis m., which makes funding decisions and handles the funds for the National Honey Board and other entities; and serves on the scientific review panel for the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) organization, which reviews funding requests of tech teams.
(Editor's Note: the new Extension apiculturist is Elina Lastro Niño, who holds a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University.)
WAS, which serves the educational needs of beekeepers from 13 states, plus parts of Canada, was founded in 1977-78 for “the benefit and enjoyment of all beekeepers in western North America,” said Mussen, who retired as Extension apiculturist in 2014 after a 38-year career. As emeritus, he continues to maintain an office on the third floor of Briggs Hall, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The organization was the brainchild of apiculture professor Norm Gary (UC Davis faculty, 1962 to 1994), who patterned it after the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS). Gary participated in the EAS meetings as a graduate student at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., where he received his doctorate in apiculture in 1959.
“We grad students were encouraged to attend and speak at the meetings,” Gary related. “It was a wonderful opportunity for us to become acquainted with hobby beekeeping and to get public speaking experience as we reported research results at the meetings. Much of the success of EAS can be attributed to keeping expenses reasonable by using housing and services of university campuses during the summer, and taking advantage of the support provided by bee research faculty on those campuses.”
In 1977, Gary asked Mussen and Becky Westerdahl, then Gary's postgraduate research entomologist and now an Extension nematologist at UC Davis, to help him launch the new organization. Gary obtained the bylaws and other documents from EAS to use as a model. EAS also loaned WAS $1000 to support the fledging organization. The first fundraising project: a banquet dinner held at the Putah Creek Lodge, UC Davis. “I provided some really good honey beer that I was making at the time,” Gary said, “and I contacted several wine companies for gratis cases of mead.”
Gary served as the founding president in 1978; Mussen, vice president, and Westerdahl, secretary-treasurer.
“These activities perfectly complemented his extension beekeeping program,” Gary said. “ I participated for a few more years and gradually needed more time and energy for research and other activities. Eric has been a recognized leader since the beginning days, and he is still providing great support for WAS.”
Mussen was elected president six times: 1984, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2009 and 2017. In addition, he has held the office of vice president six times. He went on to become an internationally known “honey bee guru,” with a “pulse on the bee industry” and as "the go-to person" for consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media.
A native of Schenectady, N.Y., Mussen credits his grandfather with sparking his interest in insects. His grandfather, a self-taught naturalist, would take his young grandson to the woods to point out flora and fauna.
Mussen received his bachelor's degree in entomology from the University of Massachusetts (after turning down an offer to play football at Harvard) and then received his master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota in 1969 and 1975, respectively. His doctoral research focused on the epidemiology of a viral disease of larval honey bees, sacbrood virus.
During his academic career, Mussen conducted a varied program focused mainly on his role as liaison between the academic world of apiculture and real world beekeeping and crop pollination. Mussen tackled many new challenges on honey bee health and pollination concerns, including mites, diseases, pesticides, malnutrition, stress, Africanized honey bees and the successful pollination of California's almond acreage.
He presented at national, state, and county beekeepers' meetings, as well as at agricultural organizations. He educated the beekeeping industry and general public with his bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, which he launched in 1976. He also wrote Bee Briefs, addressing such issues as diseases, pesticides and swarms. Both publications are on the departmental website at http://ucanr.org/sites/entomology/Faculty/Eric_C_Mussen/Apiculture_Newsletter/.
Mussen devoted his research and extension activities toward the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices, helping growers, consumers, UC Farm Advisors, agricultural commissioners, scientists, beekeepers, researchers, pesticide regulators, 4-H'ers, and state and national agricultural and apicultural organizations, among others.
Considered by his peers as one of the most respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation, Mussen received the prestigious American Association of Professional Apiculturists Award for Apicultural Excellence, California Beekeeper of the Year, Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA); a team award hailing “the bee team” from PBESA; and the statewide Pedro Ilic Outstanding Agricultural Educator Award.
Shortly before he retired, Mussen won the 2013 Alexander Hodson Graduate Alumni Award from his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, and the 2013-14 Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Extension from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
His nominators for the UC ANR award wrote that what sets Mussen apart from his Extension-specialist peers are these seven attributes:
- His amazing knowledge of bees
- His excellent communication skills in a diverse clientele, including researchers, Extension personnel, legislators,
commodity boards, grower organizations, pesticide regulators, students, news media, and beekeeping associations at the national, state and local levels,
- His eagerness to help everyone, no matter the age or stature or expertise, from an inquiring 4-H'er to a beginning beekeeper to a commercial beekeeper
- His ability to translate complicated research in lay terms; he's described as “absolutely the best”
- His willingness—his “just-say-yes” personality---to go above and beyond his job description by presenting multiple talks to every beekeeping association in California, whether it be a weekday, evening or weekend, and his willingness to speak at a wide variety of events, including pollinator workshops, animal biology classes, UC activities and fairs and festivals
- His reputation for being a well-respected, well-liked, honest, and unflappable person with a delightful sense of humor; and
- His valuable research, which includes papers on antiobiotics to control American foulbrood; fungicide toxicity in the almond orchards; the effect of light brown apple moth mating pheromone on honey bees; the effects of high fructose corn syrup and probiotics on bee colonies; and the invasion and behavior of Africanized bees. He is often consulted on colony collapse disorder and bee nutrition.
"Without question, Eric is the No. 1 Extension person dealing with honey bees in the nation, if not the world," said MacArthur Genus Awardee Professor Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight University Professor Apiculture/Social Insects at the University of Minnesota. "Research colleagues, beekeepers and the public are all very lucky to have him.”
Said Extension Specialist John Skinner of the University of Tennessee: “Eric is one of the most well-respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation. If I could select one person to represent the apicultural scientific community including research, regulation and extension, I would choose Eric.”
“Those of us in the bee industry who have been privileged to know and work with Eric appreciate his vast knowledge of honey bees and great communication skills," Gene Brandi, legislative chairman of the California State Beekeepers' Association. "Whether addressing scientists, beekeepers, growers, government officials, the media or anyone else, Eric can be relied upon to convey scientifically accurate information about honey bees and the beekeeping industry.”
Said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis: "He has played an invaluable role as a linchpin between honey bee researchers and the beekeeping industry and the commodity groups which depend on honey bees for pollination of their crops. His knowledge of honey bees and their biology, management and colony health is highly valued by his colleagues and clients. Eric is not only our state expert on all topics relating to honey bees, but is sought after by national level organizations to participate on committees dealing with the most important concerns of the beekeeping industry."
Extension specialist Larry Godfrey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, who nominated Mussen for the Pedro Ilic award, praised him as "a worldwide authority on honey bees, but no problem is too small and no question too involved for him to answer. “He devotes his research and extension activities to the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices. Eric helps growers, consumers, UC Farm Advisors, agricultural commissioners, scientists, beekeepers, researchers, pesticide regulators, 4-H'ers, and state and national agricultural and apicultural organizations. He ignites their interest in maintaining the health of bees, cultivates their friendship, and generously gives of his time and intellect.”
"With the decline of the honey bee population and the increase of the mysterious colony collapse disorder, his expertise is now more highly sought than ever,” Godfrey pointed out. “Any threat to honey bees is a threat to agriculture and a cause for his concern and a desire to assist. He is the only Extension Apiculturist in the UC system and in many regards, functions as the Extension entomologist for apiculture in the western U.S. and indeed, much of the country.”
Mussen co-founded and served as president of the American Association of Professional Apiculturists. He delivered keynote addresses to the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and to the American Honey Producers' Association. He also served in leadership roles in CSBA, the California Bee Breeders' Association, California Farm Bureau Federation, American Honey Producers' Association, National Honey Board, American Beekeeping Federation, and the Northern California Entomology Society, among others.
His other activities included: serving as the UC Davis representative to the California State Apiary Board; offering input to the Department of Pesticide Regulation, particularly with the pesticide registration group; working closely with Cooperation Extension, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Farm Bureau Federation, researchers in the UC system, researchers at the USDA/ARS honey bee laboratories at Beltsville, Md; Baton Rouge, La.; Tucson, Ariz., Weslaco, Texas, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
He also reviewed annual research proposals to the California State Beekeepers' Association, the Almond Board of California, and the National Honey Board, as well as Small Business Innovation Research applications at the federal level.
Highly sought by the news media for his expertise on bees, Mussen has appeared on the Lehrer Hour, BBC, Good Morning America, and quoted in the New York Times, National Public Radio, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times, among others.
During his academic career, he conducted a varied program focused mainly on his role as liaison between the academic world of apiculture and real world beekeeping and crop pollination. Mussen continues to provide provides presentations at national, state, and county beekeepers' meetings. He continues to prepare and delivers information to growers at meetings organized by UC Farm Advisors and other agricultural organizations, and by state and federal agencies, and he writes a bi-monthly newsletter on bee-related topics, which is posted on his Departmental Web page.
Recently, specific researchers have solicited Eric's involvement on their projects, and he has studied the effects of contact and feeding exposure of honey bees to a mating disruption pheromone of the light brown apple moth. Currently, Eric is collecting flight data, dead and live foragers, and pollen samples for a national study on colony health as it relates to specific cropping practices while the colonies are in commercial pollination.
Phone: (530) 752-0472