Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
The warm, dry late winter weather in California has been good news for almond farmers who were concerned about a bee shortage during bloom, reported Capital Press.
"It looks good right now," said Rich Buchner, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Tehama County. "The bees are out working like crazy. It's going to be warm and dry over the next 10 days, so it should be about perfect for almond set."
Almond growers are enjoying a vibrant blossom season even though California only had about 500,000 bee colonies available as of mid-February to pollinate this year's crop of 800,000 acres, according to Eric Mussen, UCCE specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Davis. Typically, as many as 1.6 million are needed to provide two colonies per acre.
The favorable weather for bee activity comes with a catch, however. Precipitation totals are behind seasonal averages.
A honey bee on an almond blossom. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)
CCD, the mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, immature brood and stored food, surfaced in the winter of 2006. Scientists believe CCD is caused by multiple factors: diseases, viruses, pesticides, pests, malnutrition and stress.
Meanwhile, misinformation about bees continues to surface. Posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media often caption a syrphid fly as a bee or a syrphid fly as a bumble bee. Magazine and newspaper editors frequently misidentify a syrhpid fly (aka flower fly and hover fly) as a honey bee. Even the cover of the well-respected book, Bees of the World, by Christopher O’Toole and Anthony Raw shows a fly, not a bee. University of Illinois-based entomologist Alex Wild, who received his doctorate from UC Davis, mentioned the error in his Scientific American blog.
So, we asked noted honey bee authority Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology: What should the general public know about honey bees? Can you share some basic information? A honey bee primer?
First of all, honey bees are not native to the United States. European colonists introduced them to what is now the United States in 1622. The site: the Jamestown colony in Virginia. Then in 1853, the honey bees were introduced to California. The site: San Jose.
“Honey bees,” Mussen says, “are commercial pollination workhorses, while native bees — mostly solitary — pollinate the native plants of field and forest. Around 250 commercial California beekeepers operate about 500,000 honey bee colonies, approximately one-fifth of the country’s supply. Over 72 percent of commercial crop pollination is conducted in California, and about one-third of our daily diet is dependent upon bee pollination. We also have about 6,000 small-scale or hobby beekeepers, who tend to keep one to five colonies.”
Mussen attributes CCD with “fomenting great media and public interest. It also sparked an increase in the number of small scale beekeepers.”
About 60,000 individuals, including the queen, thousands of worker bees (sterile females) and drones (male bees) comprise a colony in the late spring/summer.
“Up to a thousand drones are present during the mating season,” Mussen says, “but they get evicted at the end of the fall.”
The drones serve one purpose: to mate with a queen. And then they die. When a virgin queen is about 10 days old, she will mate with 12 to 20 drones on one or more mating flights. The queen returns to the hive and begins laying eggs, as many as 2,000 eggs a day.
“Bees are vegetarians and live on pollen and nectar obtained from flowers or extra-floral nectarines,” Mussen says. “A mix of pollens is required to meet honey bee nutritional needs.”
During the active season, a honey bee colony each day requires an acre-equivalent of blooms in order to meet its nutritional needs. Bees store both pollens and honey for winter food. The bees usually forage within five miles of the hive. Nutrition is crucial to a healthy hive.
“Malnutrition impairs the protective physiological systems — particularly the immune system and detoxification system — and leads to less productive and shorter-lived bees,” Mussen says.
The bottom line: “More research is required to find better ways to reduce populations of honey bee parasites, reduce levels of honey bee diseases, and develop beekeeping management practices that prevent excessive losses of honey bee colonies during the year.”
Honey bee on blanket flower, Gaillardia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This floral visitor, a syrphid fly, is often mistaken for a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The reporters called the proposition a "multi-million dollar food fight."
"All of the data that's come out from the American Medical Association and National Academy of Sciences have all agreed that the food products on the market today that are genetically engineered are safe," Van Eenennaam told the reporter
Polls show the 'Yes on Proposition 37' campaign is "way ahead" of those who oppose the initiative, "but there's a long way to go until November," the reporter said.
Vision still pays dividends after 150 years
Sacramento Bee editorial
The Sacramento Bee editorial staff called the 1862 Congress of the United States one of the most productive in American history. One of the reason was it's passage of the Morrill Land-Grant College Act July 2, 1862. The act created the world's best system of public colleges and universities for people of modest means, the editorial said. Previously most Americans had no access to higher education. California took up the land-grant offer in 1864 and the University of California was born – at Berkeley – in 1868. Later, the University Farm would become UC Davis. The Citrus Experiment Station would become UC Riverside.
Building a better, tastier tomato
Lauren Sommer, QUEST Northern California, KQED
Lauren Sommer interviewed Ann Powell, associate researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, about her finding that the gene that creates "green shoulders" in tomatoes influences the amount of sugar in the ripe fruit. Powell says now that they know about this gene, plant breeders could put it back in commercial varieties.
Bees need a hand, especially in drought
Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee
In honor of National Honeybee Day, the Sacramento Bee paid homage to the indispensable pollinator with information about the challenges it faces. Colony collapse disorder, drought and urbanization take their toll. There was some good news: "Bees got through the winter a little better," said Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist, apiculture. "This spring, we saw bigger, earlier and more swarms." However, nationwide, the hot dry summer has made it a tough year for honey production.
Reporter Peter Jensen talked to Robert Timm, director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center, which is located in Mendocino County. Timm said that researchers track reports of coyote attacks on humans, though no such attacks have ever been reported in Napa County.
For some Sacramento area trees, it's already spring
The Sacramento Bee reported that Bradford pear trees along Sacramento streets are blooming, and sidewalks were littered with flower petals after Monday's storm.
Reporter Debbie Arrington talked to Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Entomology department, about how the early warm weather might affect pollination and fruit formation.
"Honeybees don't really get confused," Mussen said. "They do act predictably. Anytime the temperature gets above 55 degrees, if there's food somewhere, they'll go get it."
Though petals may fall, Mussen explained that bees will be able to pollinate trees unless storm winds and rain knock entire flowers to the ground, leaving nothing to pollinate.
Even the cleanest kitchens can teem with harmful pathogens - on cutting boards and in salad spinners, on knives that just sliced raw chicken, on damp, well-used cloth towels.
"In brief, consumers don't wash up very well and may contaminate produce due to dirty hands and dirty sink," emailed Christine M. Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis. That's especially a problem with salad greens, since they never get cooked.
Schoch spoke to food experts from Kansas State University and the University of Maryland who also recommended pre-washed greens not be re-washed.
California apprenticeship building future producers
Amy Trinidad, Sheep Industry News
The American Sheep Industry Association is teaming up with the state sheep associations to expand the Let’s Grow initiative to include mentor programs for beginning sheep producers.
“There is a real movement as far as people wanting to get back to the land. In some ways, it’s like the 1960s and 70s, only with a whole bunch of bigger challenges,” says Roger Ingram, University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor.
Shepherds need to know how to run animals in a variety of environments, be able to identify common and uncommon pasture and range plants, know range nutrition, identify potential poisonous plants, be able to quickly asses the health of the flock and be able to take the appropriate steps in field conditions to fix problems, Ingram said.
Mild winter shifts the start of the growing season
Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise Record
The lack of rain has meant some Butte County almond growers have already irrigated twice, and some are starting a third run with the water. They would rather not water at all, and often don't need to this time of year, said Joe Connell, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor.
It can cost about $40 to apply 12 inches of water to one acre, he said. Growers will think carefully before pumping if it looks like another storm is on the way. The most recent rain provided water to the first foot of soil, depending on the soil conditions. But almond growers will want the soil irrigated 3 to 4 feet down by bloom time.
Almond trees in the area will likely begin to bloom around Valentine's Day this year, about a week earlier than normal.
Yuba-Sutter beekeepers abuzz on research
Jonathan Edwards, Orland Press Register
Losing bees to colony collapse disorder is not good for Yuba-Sutter. Beekeeping brought in about $3.9 million to area beekeepers in 2010, the last year for which data is available. On average, beekeepers have lost nearly one-third of their colonies each year since 2006.
That number likely skyrocketed last year as dwindling colonies drove higher prices. A shrinking supply of vibrant hives nearly doubled the price of a colony, from $33 to $58 between 2009 and 2010, according to the Sutter County Crop Report. The price nearly tripled again and is holding at about $150 a colony, said Eric Mussen, an apiculturist with UC Cooperative Extension at UC Davis.
"It just shot up," he added.