Posts Tagged: Honey bees
Do you know where your pollinators are? Think bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.
And think flies. Especially syrphid flies, also known as "flower flies" and "hover flies."
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is hosting an open house during National Pollinator Week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its bee garden, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus.
Here's what you can expect to see or do:
- learn how to catch and observe bees up close
- see honey bees at work in an observation beehive
- learn about bee diversity and identification
- learn about what and how to plant for bees
- learn about growing and good pollination in home fruit gardens
- see easy-to-grow bee plants and solitary bee houses available for a donation to the garden.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, installed in the fall of 2009 and located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road, is a half-acre garden devoted to bee pollinator conservation and education. It was founded and sprang to life during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project. Kimsey was singled out for her work when the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America honored her and four others – "The Bee Team"– with the 2013 outstanding team award.
A Sausalito team – landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki – won the design competition. The judges were Professor Kimsey; founding garden manager Missy Borel (now Missy Borel Gable), then of the California Center for Urban Horticulture; David Fujino, executive director, California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis; Aaron Majors, construction department manager, Cagwin & Dorward Landscape Contractors, based in Novato; Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager, Häagen-Dazs ice cream; Heath Schenker, professor of environmental design, UC Davis; Jacob Voit, sustainability manager and construction project manager, Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Others with a key role in the founding and "look" of the garden included the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, founded and directed by the duo of entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long worker bee sculpture, the work of Billick, anchors the garden. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.
Why are pollinators so crucial? Take it from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:
"Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85 percent of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. The United States alone grows more than 100 crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S. Beyond agriculture, pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent of all birds, and of mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears. In many places, the essential service of pollination is at risk from habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced diseases."
So, on Saturday, June 23, you won't see any red-backed voles or grizzly bears. But you'll see bees, butterflies, birds and beetles.
And flies. Syprhid flies.
For more information on the open house, access https://hhbhgarden.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Pollinator-week-flyer-2018-1.pdf
The importance of pollinators – such as bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds – is becoming more widely known. Bees pollinate approximately 35 percent of the food we eat. Pollinators as a whole are worth about $15 billion to the agricultural industry.
Honey bees are important, yet they are declining. Besides issues such as habitat loss and disease, pest management methods can also contribute to population loss. Pesticides used to kill insects, plant pathogens and weeds can leave residues that kill bees and other natural enemies. Residues can linger in pollen and nectar, and pollinators moving into an area after an application can be unintentionally harmed. Even some less-toxic materials can be harmful if not applied correctly or if applied at the wrong time.
Growers and home gardeners can find newly updated guidelines for protecting pollinators as well as a list of honey bee resources on the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program website. The UC IPM program, a part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, works with residents, farmers, land managers, community leaders and other professional pest managers to prevent and solve pest problems with the least unintended impacts on people, beneficial species and their surroundings.
IPM combines several effective pest control methods that are safe for people and the environment with the goal of long-term prevention and management. Many pest problems can be solved without the use of pesticides. Using pest resistant or competitive plants, removing the pests' sources of food and water, knocking pests off plants with a spray of water, deploying traps and blocking pests' entrance to buildings with screens or other barriers are just a few things you can do to reduce a pest problem. IPM reduces the need for pesticides, thus preventing harm to bees.
Pesticides are sometimes necessary in an IPM program, but when used, they should be used in combination with non-chemical methods. There are several key points to keep in mind when applying pesticides:
- Use them sparingly, and only treat areas where pests are problems.
- Choose selective pesticides and ones that won't persist in the environment.
- Time applications so that you are not spraying when bees are active, and avoid spraying during bloom time.
- Be aware of nearby bee colonies, and avoid spraying around healthy bee populations and areas with a lot of nectar-producing plants.
New research looking at pesticide risks to honey bees and new pesticide labels being developed by the EPA that prohibit the use of some pesticides when bees are present are just a couple of efforts being made to protect pollinators. UC IPM is revising its list of pesticides ranked for risk of harm to honey bees in its Pest Management Guidelines (relative toxicities tables). An online searchable database is expected to be published in early fall. This information will eventually be incorporated into the Pest Management Guidelines.
For more information on IPM and on what you can do to protect bees and other pollinators, visit the UC IPM web site.
An initiative to manage endemic and invasive pests and diseases is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
Author: Cheryl Reynolds
The dwindling resources of pollen and nectar-producing plants in California greatly concern bee scientists and beekeepers, and rightfully so.
But the dwindling resources also greatly concern native pollinator specialists and native plant enthusiasts. Some worry that honey bees, which are non-natives, may be "reducing" or "eliminating" native pollinators through competition for food.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology explains that a number of agencies and organizations are cooperating in an effort to "restore" regions of the California Central Valley to their "original state."
“The major emphases are (1) replacing non-native vegetation with native plants and (2) encouraging native animals to return to their former ranges,” Mussen says. "The result has been eviction of beekeepers from apiary locations that have been used for decades as seasonal spots for rebuilding populations following the stresses of commercial pollination or for producing honey."
Indeed, in some situations, honey bees can survive, and native pollinators can’t.
“With honey bees, if we provide them with an adequate hive and food sources, they are likely to survive,” Mussen says. “However, native pollinators can be very particular about the environment in which they can exist. If their nesting habitat is disturbed, modified or destroyed, they cannot live in the area, despite an abundance of food plants. In many California locations, it is habitat alteration or destruction, not lack of food, which eliminated the native pollinators.”
So, should honey bees be banned from restoration areas?
"No," Mussen says. "Honey bees should be solicited for restoration areas, not banned."
Mussen shares a list of 130 native California plants that are likely to be visited - "and probably pollinated" - by honey bees. They include button bush or button willow, fiddleneck, and California golden poppy. The list is excerpted from Nectar and Pollen Plants of California by G. H. Vansell UC Berkeley, plus personal observations by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology. The list is updated, reflecting information on the CalFlora website and the Jepson Manual of Higher Plants of California.
Thorp, who monitors the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, planted in the fall of 2009 on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, has found more than 80 different species of bees - and counting - in the half-acre bee garden. It's located next to the apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
So honey bees and native bees share the resources.
A honey bee foraging on button willow, also known as button bush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. Honey bees on non-natives, and the button bush is a native California plant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee visiting California golden poppy, Eschscholzia spp. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on fiddleneck, Amsinckia spp. (Photo by 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)
Beekeepers are trucking some 1.5 million bee colonies around the state to help pollinate California’s 760,000 acres of almond orchards and 50 other fruit and nut crops. They continue to pollinate vegetable crops throughout the summer and early fall. Beyond pollination, bees are big business here. California is the second largest producer of honey in the country, producing over 27 million pounds of honey in 2010.
The chain of production leading to pollination and honey processing is long. Apiaries require hive construction and management, bee travel for nectar and pollination, honey extraction, processing and packaging. And each stage requires energy inputs in the form of fuel, electricity or nutrients.
Researchers at UC Davis and the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) have created a way to calculate how much energy is required to produce a honey product, and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are created throughout the process. Looking at the chain of production for an entire operation, researchers can estimate the carbon footprint for a single kilogram of honey.
Recently, SAREP released a honey carbon calculator to help individual beekeepers, both hobbyist and commercial, track the greenhouse gases of their own apiaries.
The calculator is based on a life cycle assessment (LCA) of honey production, a cradle-to-grave accounting system used to track the energy requirements of products as diverse as cement, hybrid cars and almonds.
“With agriculture, a life cycle has to include all of the upstream materials acquisition and energy acquisition before you even get to the agricultural field. So we’re looking at the impacts of all of that,” said Sonja Brodt, program coordinator at UC SAREP who works on life cycle assessments.
The LCA of honey production is the first of its kind in the U.S. Alissa Kendall, assistant professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, spearheaded the effort to assess honey’s greenhouse gas impact. To her surprise, “the big finding was the role of transportation in the life cycle.” Transportation of bee colonies for pollination and over-wintering uses the greatest energy and creates the greatest emissions.
Tracking these emissions is ultimately a benefit to a farmer’s bottom line, said Kendall.
“There’s occasionally hostility to climate change and greenhouse gas research because it’s a very politicized issue," she said. But researchers find that “efficiency in operations is often well aligned with reducing greenhouse gases and climate footprint . . . and often goes hand in hand with reducing energy use and dependence on fossil fuels and oil.”
Elias Marvinney, a graduate student researcher focusing on agriculturally-produced greenhouse gas emissions said there are concrete financial rewards for being a net-carbon sequesterer.
"If you can put a carbon negative sticker on your product, then you just expanded your market," Marvinney said.
Currently, honey producers and processors can input their records into the carbon calculator to determine which part of their operations have the greatest emissions and see where the greatest improvements can be made. The calculator can be found at: http://asi.ucdavis.edu/sarep/sfr/life cycleassessments/honey
The calculator comes with a guide. Sonja Brodt of UC SAREP can address questions.
The article, Carbon footprint and air emissions inventories for US honey production: case studies, written by Alissa Kendall, Juhong Yuan and Sonja Brodt, was published in September's issue of The International Journal of Lifecycle Assessments.