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Posts Tagged: honey bees

Rapini! Rapini! Rapini!

Billy Synk in the rapini he planted. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee population declining?

You wouldn't know it if you were to visit the two rapini patches in front of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.

“The bees love the rapini,” said Laidlaw manager and staff research associate Billy Synk, who planted the seeds given him by Project Apis m.

Project apis m., a moniker derived from Apis mellifera, the scientific name of the European honey bee, funds and directs research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production. It's based in Paso Robles, Calif.  Take a look at the organization's website:  "We've infused over $2.5 million into bee research since our inception in 2006 to provide growers with healthier bees resulting in better pollination and increased crop yields.  We have personal relationships with the nation's commercial beekeepers and with the top bee scientists in the country."

"We fund research studies, purchase equipment for bee labs at our universities, support graduate students and provide scholarships to young bee scientists to encourage their pursuit of science-based solutions to honey bee challenges." 

Its eight-member board includes beekeepers and industry leaders. Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis is a longtime scientific advisor.

And rapini? It's a green cruciferous vegetable from the mustard family. The leaves, buds and stems are edible and often served in restaurants throughout the world. If you were in Italy, you'd eat the cimi di rapa or rapini. In Naples, it's known as friarielli and sometimes broccoli di rapa, according to Wikipedia. If you were in Rome, broccoletti. And in Portugal and Spain, grelos.

The bees know it as simply food for their colonies. Good stuff.  (In addition to rapini, PAm encourages folks to plant lovers, vetch, allysum, and native wildflowers as bee pasture.)

One thing's for certain: If you plan to participate in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' pollinator count for a three-minute period on Thursday, May 8 your eyes will tire from counting all the bees in the rapini!

Like to participate?  See the UC ANR's website, Day of Science and Service. You can also photograph pollinators and post the images on the website for all to see and enjoy.

A honey bee foraging on rapini at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee foraging on rapini at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee foraging on rapini at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee takes a liking to the rapini.  (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee takes a liking to the rapini. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee takes a liking to the rapini. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Multi-tasking honey bee cleaning its tongue and packing its pollen load. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Multi-tasking honey bee cleaning its tongue and packing its pollen load. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Multi-tasking honey bee cleaning its tongue and packing its pollen load. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A large pollen load. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A large pollen load. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A large pollen load. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, April 21, 2014 at 9:48 PM

When Bees Get in Trouble

Maryann Frazier (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Bees are incredibly good at picking up what's in their environment."

So said Senior Extension Associate Maryann Frazier of Penn State when she addressed the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's seminar last Wednesday, April 2 in Briggs Hall.

Frazier, on a trip to California to discuss her research with the Marin County Beekeepers, took time out to travel to the UC Davis campus at the invitation of Master Beekeeper/writer Mea McNeil of the Marin County Beekeepers and associate professor Neal Williams and assistant professor Brian Johnson of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Frazier, a 25-year extension specialist, expressed concern about the pesticide loads that bees are carrying, as well as the declining population of bees and other pollinators.

Beekeepers, she said, used to be much more concerned about colony collapse disorder (CCD), that mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult honey bees abandoning the hive, leaving the queen bee, brood and food stores behind.  CCD surfaced in the winter of 2006, but today, when beekeepers report their winter losses, "they're not blaming CCD any more," she said. 

Frazier listed the prime suspects of troubled bees as poor nutrition, mites, genetics, stress, pesticides, nosema and viruses. "Varroa mites are a huge issue," Frazier said.

Turning to pesticides, she said a 2007-2010 U.S. analysis of some 1000 samples  (wax, bees and flowers) showed "an astonishing average of six pesticides per sample and up to 31 different pesticides per sample." The analysis, done by U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service Lab (USDA/AMS) screened for 171 pesticides at parts per billion. The samples involved a CCD study, apple orchard study, migratory study and submissions from individual beekeepers.  

Frazier compared the interaction of pesticides in bees to the interaction of medications in humans. When you go to the doctor, you'll be asked the names of the medications you're taking, she said.  The "interaction" situation is similar to what's happening with the honey bees.

In a bee colony, lethal exposures to pesticides are easy to see, Frazier noted. "You'll see dead bees, bees spinning on their backs and bees regurgitating." But the sub-lethal effects can mean "reduced longevity, reduced memory and learning, reduced immune function and poor orientation."

Marin County Beekeepers recently undertook a similar study of pesticide analysis, raising $12,000 to do so ($300 per sample). "Marin is very mindful of pesticides, probably more than any other place," Frazier said. McNeil agreed. The results are pending publication.

"If we truly want to protect our pollinators," Frazier concluded, "three things need to be addressed or changed:

  • Beekeeper reliance on chemicals and drugs to manage mites and diseases
  • Pest control practices, particularly agricultural land
  • The approach of more regulatory agences assessing risk and protecting the environment"

As the seminar participants left Briggs Hall, many could be heard discussing the take-home message: "average of six pesticides per sample, up to 31 pesticides per sample."

A queen bee and her colony at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A queen bee and her colony at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A queen bee and her colony at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Maryann Frazier with the list of 171 pesticides screened in the U.S. survey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Maryann Frazier with the list of 171 pesticides screened in the U.S. survey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Maryann Frazier with the list of 171 pesticides screened in the U.S. survey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, April 4, 2014 at 8:57 PM

The Tangerine Girls

The honey bees know it before we do.

The tangerines are blooming.

Today dozens of bees buzzed around our tangerine trees, doing their annual job of pollinating the crop. 

The tangerine, the common name of the mandarin orange, is native to southeast Asia. According to the Oxford English dictionary, the word, "tangerine," originates from Tangier, a seaport in Morocco on the Strait of Gibralter.

No matter its name or its origin, the bees love it. According to California Bountiful, California's citrus industry is valued at more than $1 billion annually--second after Florida "which produces the most valencia oranges; those are the seeded oranges used mostly for orange juice. California is No. 1 in fresh-market oranges, most notably the navel, but also produces a significant share of the nation's valencias, lemons, grapefruit and tangerines."

Tangerines are a favorite because of their taste, small size, easy-to-peel appeal, and now something else. Researchers at the University of Western Ontario discovered a substance in the tangerine skins that "not only prevents obesity in mice, but also offers protections against type 2 diabetes, and even atherosclerosis, the underlying disease responsible for most heart attacks and strokes." (Source: Wikipedia)

Who would have thought?

A honey bee pollinates a tangerine blossom next to fruit lingering on the tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee pollinates a tangerine blossom next to fruit lingering on the tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee pollinates a tangerine blossom next to fruit lingering on the tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Acrobatic honey bee on a tangerine blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Acrobatic honey bee on a tangerine blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Acrobatic honey bee on a tangerine blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

It's the end for one blossom and the beginning of another. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's the end for one blossom and the beginning of another. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

It's the end for one blossom and the beginning of another. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 7:50 PM
Tags: honey bees (194), mandarines (1), tangerines (1)

Honey Bee Expert to Give UC Davis Seminar April 2 on Pesticide Conundrum

A mite on a drone. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pesticides. Honey Bees.

The two don't go together, but how can we protect both crops and pollinators?

"Pesticides may be necessary in today's cropping systems but large monocultures have resulted in the need for significant use of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides," says honey bee expert Maryann Frazier, senior extension associate, Penn State University. 

"New chemistries, such as neonicitinoids, have their advantages but the persistent use of synthetic pesticides, especially in bee-pollinated crops and/or crops visited by bees to collect nectar or pollen, such as corn, has resulted in significant pesticide exposure to bees."

Frazier, fresh from a trip to Kenya to help beekeepers with varroa mite problems, will be on the University of California, Davis, campus on Wednesday, April 2 to  discuss "The Pesticide Conundrum: Protecting Crops and Pollinators." Her seminar, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be from 12:10 to 1 p.m., in 122 Briggs Hall.

"Over the past seven years our lab has analyzed over 1,200 samples of mainly pollen, wax, bees and flowers for 171 pesticides and metabolites," she said. "We have found 129 different compounds in nearly all chemical classes, including organophosphates, pyrethroids, carbamates, neonicotinoids, chlorinated cyclodienes, organochlorines, insect growth regulators, fungicides, herbicides, synergists, and formamidines. Further, we have identified up to 31 different pesticides in a single pollen sample, and 39 in a single wax sample. An average of 6.7 chemicals are found in pollen samples.   However, the pesticides found most often and at the highest levels are miticides used by beekeepers for the control of varroa mites."

In her talk, Frazier will discuss these results, additional studies and concerns about "the synergistic effects of pesticides, systemic pesticides and sub-lethal impacts, including those on immune function, memory and learning and longevity, as well as the question of toxicity associated with adjuvants/inert ingredients."

Helping to coordinate the seminar with assistant professor Brian Johnson is Mea McNeil of San Anselmo, master beekeeper and writer. 

Frazier, senior extension associate at Penn State for the past 25 years, is responsible for honey bee extension throughout Pennsylvania and cooperatively across the Mid-Atlantic region. Frazier works with other members of the PSU Department of Entomology to understand how pesticides are impacting honey bees and other pollinators. She's taught courses in beekeeping, general entomology and teacher education and is involved with the  department's innovative public outreach program. In addition, she works with a team of U.S. and Kenyan researchers to understand the impacts of newly introduced varroa mites on East African honey bee subspecies and to help Kenyan beekeepers become more productive. 

Frazier holds two degrees from Penn State: a bachelor of science degree in agriculture education (1980) and a masters of agriculture in entomology (1983), specializing in apiculture. She is a former assistant state apiary inspector in Maryland and also has worked as a beekeeping specialist in Sudan and later in Central America.

Frazier appears in a YouTube video, posted July 23, 2012 on the declining bee population. The brief clip was excerpted from Frazier's Spring 2012 Research Unplugged talk titled "Disappearing Bees: An Update on the Search for Prime Suspects." The abstract: She discusses the decline of pollinators and the prime suspects behind it. Some of these suspects include the use of pesticides, on both small and large scales, that destroy food sources for bees; agribusiness practices such as monocropping, in which the same single crop is planted year after year, eliminating the plant diversity pollinators need; stress caused by transporting the bees across country for commercial pollination needs; and threats such as nosema disease, viruses and mites.

The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology plans to video-record her seminar for later posting on UCTV.

Maryann Frazier inspects a hive. (Photo courtesy of Penn State)
Maryann Frazier inspects a hive. (Photo courtesy of Penn State)

Maryann Frazier inspects a hive. (Photo courtesy of Penn State)

Honey bees thriving at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees thriving at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees thriving at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 10:50 PM
Tags: honey bees (194), Maryann Frazier (2), pesticides (2), seminar (1)

Eye on the Buckeye

It won't bloom until summer, but already many eyes are on the California buckeye.

The tree's blossoms are poisonous to honey bees.  Bees are attracted to them and forage on them, but the end result of the food provisions to the colony can be deformed larval development.

We've seen bee hives within a quarter of a mile of California buckeyes (Aesculus californica). And we've seen honey bees, native bees and other pollinators foraging on the blossoms.

At the recent UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen talked about the poisonous plants. (See PowerPoint presentations.) That led to one workshop participant wondering if the flowers of the California buckeye are poisonous to native bees. (Honey bees are not native; the European colonists brought them to the Jamestown colony, Virginia, in 1622).

Responded Mussen: "My guess: either the native bees that have been in the areas around California buckeye for a long, long time are not poisoned by the pollen or they have been selected (by death of the other genetic types) to avoid the pollen, that eons of natural selection have adapted them to coexist with California buckeye while using their resources."  

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shared: "We know California buckeye nectar and/or pollen is toxic to honey bees from years of experience with managed hives. Toxicity to native bees and other flower visitors is not so easily determined and to my knowledge has not been investigated. The fact that populations of native bees and butterflies visit California buckeye flowers and continue to persist in areas where the tree is a dominant part of the plant community tends to confirm what Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen says about them. Some good research projects here. So we still do not know if it is the nectar, pollen, or both that may be toxic to honey bees, much less to native flower visitors."

According to gardeningguides.com, the seeds in their raw state are poisonous to humans, but native Americans learned  to get around that and use them for food. They pounded the seeds into flour and then cooked the mixture.  "This tree had multiple cultural uses among California Indian tribes," the website says. "Many indigenous groups utilized buckeye seeds for food, often when other plant food sources were scarce. These tribes included the Costanoan, Salinan, Kitanemuk, Serrano, Wappo, Sierra Miwok, Coast Miwok, Chumash, Kawaiisu, Northern Maidu among others. The Pomo ate the seeds even when other important food plants were plentiful. The seeds are poisonous to humans in the raw state. Thus, the nuts were cracked open with a rock, the shells removed, the seeds pounded into flour, and their toxic saponins removed in a lengthy leaching process. The meal was subsequently cooked and eaten. There are many different methods for processing and cooking buckeye seeds for food, depending upon the tribe. The seeds have medicinal properties and were cut into pieces, mixed with water, and made into suppositories for hemorrhoids by the Costanoan and Kawaiisu. The Pomo cut bark from the base of the tree and made a poultice, which was laid on a snakebite. Young buckeye shoots were sometimes used as spindles or twirling sticks in fire-making kits of the Sierra Miwok, Northern Maidu, Wappo, Yahi and other tribes. Many tribes mashed buckeye nuts and poured the contents into quiet pools to stupefy or kill fish."

And, no wildlife will eat buckeye seeds except squirrels, such as the California ground squirrel (Citellus beecheyi).

Meanwhile, the poisonous blossoms continue to beckon the honey bees--and their colonies keep producing deformed bees.

Honey bee foraging last May on a California buckeye, which is poisonous to honey bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging last May on a California buckeye, which is poisonous to honey bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee foraging last May on a California buckeye, which is poisonous to honey bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A California buckeye blooming in May of last year on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A California buckeye blooming in May of last year on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A California buckeye blooming in May of last year on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 10:44 PM

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