UCCE Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County

Posts Tagged: honey bees

The Night Before Christmas...in a Bee Colony

Professor Clement Clarke Moore (July 15, 1779 – July 10, 1863) wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for his family in 1822. It later became known as "The Night Before Christmas."  Fast forward, 92 years later. With apologies to the good professor, we took pen in hand and thought about what "The Night Before Christmas" might be like in a honey bee colony.

The Night Before Christmas...in a Bee Colony

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the bee yard
Not a creature was stirring, not even a guard
The honey was packed in the hive with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The larvae were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of royal jelly danced in their heads
The workers, drones and queen were all a'fling
To await what trouble next spring will bring.

It's a dangerous world out there, the queen said
Life on the wing can leave you dead
Spiders, dragonflies, yellowjackets and birds
Assassin bugs, mantids and wasps, it's absurd.

Then there are pesticides, parasites and pests
And viruses, diseases, malnutrition and stress
It's a dangerous world everywhere, the queen said
A little of that can leave us all dead.

For years, we put out the "unwelcome mat"
For there are bears, skunks and raccoons about
And ‘possums, badgers, ‘jackets, and mice
'Scuse me! Why can't everyone just be nice?

Santa, you didn't listen to us bees
When we sat down upon your knees
You called us by name, that is true
But you left us all feeling quite blue.

Hi, honey! Hi, sweetie! Hi, sugar! Hi, dear!
You said we had nothing to fear.
Hi, darling! Hi, precious! Hi, baby! Hi, love!
And with that, you gave us a shove.

You didn't ask what kills us, St. Nick
You didn't ask what makes us sick
You didn't ask us about our clan
Do you care that we're in a jam?

There's just one thing we want, that's it
Something that will make us fit
Just two little words, please answer our call
We want to “bee healthy,” for once and for all!
(c) Kathy Keatley Keatley December 24, 2014

 

Inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

New life emerging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
New life emerging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

New life emerging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, December 24, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Great ESA Student Debate Topic: Neonics

A sick honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was great to see the Entomological Society of America (ESA) select "neonicotinoids" as a student debate topic for its recent meeting in Portland, Ore.

Bee health is a challenge, and this hot topic tied in with ESA President Frank Zalom's theme "Grand Challenges Beyond the Horizons."  Zalom, who just completed his presidential term and is now serving as past president, is a distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and an integrated pest management specialist.

Debate topics are always lively and this one was no exception. The teams are given eight months to practice for the 45-minute debate. The end result: their work is published in the ESA journal, American Entomologist.

 "Should the agricultural use of neonicotinoids be banned?" Graduate students from the UC Davis Department of Entomology were given the "con" side and Auburn University, Alabama, the "pro side."

From all accounts, it was a fantastic debate, with both sides making key points. The UC Davis team, captained by Mohammad-Amir Aghaee, successfully argued that a ban on the insecticides in agriculture “will not improve pollinator health or restore populations, based on current science. Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests. Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM tool.”

UC Davis won the debate, and then went on to win the overall ESA student debate championship for the second consecutive year.

“Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests,” Aghaee said at the onset. “Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM (integrated pest management) tool.” The team also argued successfully that neonicotinoids (also known as neonics) are not all “created equal.”

 The insecticide, chemically similar to nicotine, is implicated in the mass die-off of pollinators.  The European Union recently adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the nenicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that by January 2016, it will ban the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides and the use of crops improved through biotechnology throughout the 150 million acres managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System.

In addition to Aghaee,  the UC Davis team included graduate students Margaret "Rei" Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., and Daniel Klittich. Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, served as their advisor.  The Auburn team, captained by Olufemi Ajayi, included Adekunle Adesanya, Julian Golec, Matt Burrows, Scott Clem and alternate Zi Ye. Associate professor David Held served as their advisor.

The protocol included a seven-minute statement by each team; cross-examinations; rebuttals; and questions from the judges and audience. 

The UC Davis team cited three main points:

  • Pesticides are IMPORTANT tools used in modern agriculture
  • Neonicotinoids were registered as reduced risk pesticide to replace the organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethroids
  • Banning neonicotinoids would increase of use of pesticides that have known non-target effects

The UC Davis entomologists agreed that acute and chronic studies "have shown that neonics are toxic to honey bees and bumble bees (Blacquiere et al. 2012)" but argued that “all neonics are not created equal (Brown et al. 2014)." They cited “inconsistent results with field-realistic doses (Cresswell et al. 2012)" and noted that “many other factors have been documented as contributing to pollinator decline (Epstein et al. 2012).”

It's not just insecticides that are killing bees, the UC Davis team pointed out. They listed the varroa mite (Varroa destructor),  vectored pathogens, and the acaricides, antibiotics and fungicides that are directly added to the colony. They also mentioned American foulbrood and Nosema bombi; inadequate honey bee nutrition; insufficient food substitute; habitat fragmentation; land-use changes; and the increasing demand for pollination changes.

The UC Davis entomologists recommended that regulatory agencies need more thorough registration guidelines that incorporate bee toxicity data for all pesticides (Hopwood et al. 2012). This would encompass chronic toxicity, sublethal effects and synergistic effects. Another recommendation: mandate better management practices that follow IPM principles that protect bees on crops (Epstein et al. 2012). This would include banning certain application strategies, using less toxic neonicotinoids, and encompass the essential education and communication.

The UC Davis team summarized its argument with “There is NO definitive scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are the primary cause of pollinator declines. Neonicotinoids are important reduced risk pesticides for management of some of our most damaging pests. Neonicotinoids should be better regulated, not banned." They concluded: “Given the current state of knowledge, banning neonicotinoids is a premature and disproportionate response to a complex issue. This requires holistic scientific inquiry and interpretation, and cooperation among stakeholders. Any changes must be based on science rather than opinion, current trends, or fear.”

The Auburn team argued that neonicotinoids are causing the death of bees essential for pollinating our food crops, and that the use of neonicotinoids should end. They outlined six key points:

  • Critical time for pollinators in the United States
  • Lethal and sub-lethal effects
  • Prevalence and exposure
  • Effects on other pollinators
  • Risk-assessment
  • Food Quality and Protection Act (FQPA) as a precedent

Expanding on the fact that this is “a critical time for pollinators in the United States,” the Auburn team pointed out that honey bees pollinate $15-20 billion worth of crops in the U.S., and $200 billion worldwide; that approximately $3 billion worth of crop pollination services are provided by native bees; and that CCD likely has many contributing factors but many of those are enhanced by neonicotinoids. They said that the honey bee population is declining. In 1947, the United States had 6 million bee colonies and today, it's down to 2.5 million.

The Auburn team keyed in on lethal and sublethal effects of neonics:  synergistic interactions with other pesticides, including DMI (demethylation inhibitor) fungicides; increased susceptibility to pathogens (Nosema spp.); decrease in foraging success; decrease in overwintering queen survival; learning impairment consequences; and reproductive inhibition. They also called attention to prevalence and exposure to neonicotinoids. They discussed the neonicotinoid residues found on bee-pollinated crops and plants by various means of exposure: seed coating; foliar spray, soil drench, trunk injections; length of residue (soil vs. foliage and length of bee exposure); and single exposures resulting in season-long impacts. They also said the multiple means of exposure due to application can lead to multiple routes of exposure within bees: via pollen, nectar, guttation fluid and extrafloral nectaries.

In their concluding statement, the Auburn team said that current tools for risk assessment may not be adequate; and that limiting neonicotinoid use will not harm agriculture--"it will open the door for more sustainable agriculture and new insecticides." They emphasized that we must save our pollinators, especially in the United States. "The United States is a special case--globally there is an increase in bee colonies; however, the United States is at a critical point at which bee pollination services are being threatened irreversibly."

One of the several swaying arguments that led to UC Davis winning the debate was that not all neonics are created equal, and thus, they should not all be lumped together as "an equal" and all be banned.

The UC Davis team received a $500 cash award, a plaque and a perpetual trophy engraved with UC Davis. ESA president Frank Zalom presented the awards.

Next year's ESA meeting takes place Nov. 15-18 in Minneapolis. Its theme, chosen by ESA President Phil Mulder, professor and head of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Oklahoma State University, is "Synergy in Science: Partnering for Solutions." He says that the theme "represents a collaborative effort with the other societies, but genuinely keeps us focused on our three strategic principles; 1) our social responsibility to develop ALL members, 2) exploring global partnerships and relationships within our science, and 3) expanding our influence around the world to maximize the impact that entomology has on improving the human condition and our knowledge of the world around us."

The UC Davis team included (from left) Margaret “Rei” Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., Jenny Carlson, captain Mohammad-Amir Aghaee and Danny Klittich. At far right is ESA president Frank Zalom of UC Davis who presented the team with its award. (Photo by Trav Williams of Broken Banjo Photography)
The UC Davis team included (from left) Margaret “Rei” Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., Jenny Carlson, captain Mohammad-Amir Aghaee and Danny Klittich. At far right is ESA president Frank Zalom of UC Davis who presented the team with its award. (Photo by Trav Williams of Broken Banjo Photography)

The UC Davis team included (from left) Margaret “Rei” Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., Jenny Carlson, captain Mohammad-Amir Aghaee and Danny Klittich. At far right is ESA president Frank Zalom of UC Davis who presented the team with its award. (Photo by Trav Williams of Broken Banjo Photography

The Auburn University team included (from left) alternate Zi Ye, and members Carl Clem, Julian Golec, Adekunle Adesanya, Matthew Burrows, and Olufemi Ajayi, captain.
The Auburn University team included (from left) alternate Zi Ye, and members Carl Clem, Julian Golec, Adekunle Adesanya, Matthew Burrows, and Olufemi Ajayi, captain.

The Auburn University team included (from left) alternate Zi Ye, and members Carl Clem, Julian Golec, Adekunle Adesanya, Matthew Burrows, and Olufemi Ajayi, captain.

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Winning T-Shirt Design Spotlights the Honey Bee

Danny Klitich's award-winnning design.
Apiculturists and beekeepers will love this T-shirt. So will anyone else who has an avid interest in honey bees, or even a passing interest.

It's all the buzz.

Graduate student Danny Klittich won the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association's annual t-shirt design contest with a design depicting a honey bee and the iconic hexagonal cells. 

Klittich, who is starting his third year as a doctoral student in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, studies with major professor Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the department. 

The T-shirt, publicly available for purchase, with proceeds benefitting EGSA, is golden yellow with a black illustration. Graduate student and T-shirt project coordinator Margaret “Rei” Scampavia is taking orders at m.rei.scampavia@gmail.com.  Sizes range from youth small to adult double X.

Klittich says he's not an artist but has always had an interest in honey bees. He was a member of the UC Davis graduate student team that won the student debate championship, Nov. 18, at the Entomological Society of America's  62nd annual meeting in Portland, Ore. The team debated neonicotinoids, defeating Auburn (Alabama) University team.   UC Davis successfully argued the con side of “Neonicotinoids Are Causing the Death of Bees Essential for Pollinating our Food Crops. The Use of Neonicotinoids Should End.” The team, captained by Mohammad-Amir Aghaee of the Larry Godfrey lab, also included Jenny Carlson, Anthony Cornel lab; Ralph Washington Jr., Steve Nadler lab; and Margaret "Rei" Scampavia, Neal Williams/Edwin Lewis lab.

Klittich's research focuses on increasing plant resistance to herbivorous and improving integrated pest management (IPM) programs in horticulture and floriculture. He is currently analyzing the effects of silicate fertilizers on leafmining pests in chrysanthemum and gerbera production systems.

Klittich, from Fillmore, is a graduate of Fillmore High School and valedictorian of the Class of 2006. He grew up in the nursery business, working at his family's nursery, Otto and Sons Nursery, Inc., Fillmore. During his youth he was active in 4-H and Boy Scouts, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.

Klittich received his bachelor degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2010. Following his graduation, he worked in the Parrella laboratory, helping to maintain the greenhouses and experimental plants and assisting with pesticide efficacy trials on several crops and pests including spider mites, leafminer and mealbugs. He enrolled in the doctorate program in 2012 and continues his work in the Parrella lab.

The current president of EGSA, Klittich is active in the Pacific Branch of ESA (PBESA) and ESA, the national organization. He was a member of the UC Davis championship team that won the ESA student debate in 2013. The subject: “Using GMOs to Using GMO's  to Technology is Not Universally Accepted – Con side." 

Klittich plans to receive his doctorate in 2016. His career goal: to pursue a career in pesticide and IPM research either in the private sector or in the California University System as a farm advisor. 

In addition to the honey bee t-shirt, EGSA is offering other T-shirts, most available for $15. Popular EGSA shirts depict a dung beetle, “They See Me Rollin'”; a “cuddling moth” for infants and toddlers; a weevil shirt, “See No Weevil, Hear No Weevil, Speak No Weevil”; and “The Beetles” shirt, of four beetles crossing Abbey Road, reminiscent of The Beatles pictured on their Abbey Road album. All can be ordered from Margaret “Rei” Scampavia at m.rei.scampavia@gmail.com.

Graduate student Danny Klittich with his prize-winning design. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Graduate student Danny Klittich with his prize-winning design. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Graduate student Danny Klittich with his prize-winning design. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 4:55 PM

It's All The Buzz

Honey bees will be "all the buzz" next week when the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) meets Nov. 18-20 in Valencia, Calif., and the  Entomological Society of America (ESA) meets Nov. 16-19 in Portland, Ore.

Those who belong to both organizations have a decision to make: go to Portland, "The City of Roses," or to Valencia, known as "Awesometown."  They're 932 miles apart. Interestingly enough, they have more in common than you think. Both were founded in 1889.  CSBA is gathering for its 125th annual meeting while ESA is holding its 62nd annual meeting.

ESA, headed by Frank Zalom, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will discuss scores of insects, including honey bees. Topics include "Nutrition and the Health and Behavior of Wild and Managed Bees" and "New Frontiers in Honey Bee Health Economics: Incorporating Entomological Research and Knowledge into Economic Assessments."

CSBA, headed by Bill Lewis of the San Fernando Valley, will zero in on safe pollination of almond orchards, urban beekeeping, honey bee forage and nutrition, mead-making, and honey bee health, exacerbated by pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress. Varroa mites continue to be the beekeepers' No. 1 problem.

At the CSBA meeting, Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who serves as the organization's current apiculturist and parliamentarian (as well as a frequent speaker), will pass the torch--a smoker?--when he  introduces the new Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Nino in a Nov. 20th presentation. It's titled "California Extension Apiculturist--Passing the Torch." 

What we need now in California is rain. The drought worries us all. (Listen to what Mussen recently told Capital Public Radio about bees, the lack of floral resources, and the drought.)

And, as if on cue, it rained today. A honey bee in the apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility ventured from its hive and encountered something it may not have seen before: rain drops.

A honey bee encounters rain drops Nov. 13 in the midst of the California drought. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee encounters rain drops Nov. 13 in the midst of the California drought. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee encounters rain drops Nov. 13 in the midst of the California drought. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is what beekeepers want more of: rain and forage for their bees. This is a blue aster, member of the sunflower family. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is what beekeepers want more of: rain and forage for their bees. This is a blue aster, member of the sunflower family. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is what beekeepers want more of: rain and forage for their bees. This is a blue aster, member of the sunflower family. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 9:25 PM
Tags: Bill Lewis (1), CSBA (1), ESA (1), Frank Zalom (1), honey bees (219)

Matadors in the Champagne Bubbles

It's cool how honey bees and syrphid flies gravitate toward the Iceland Poppy.

It's a winter plant, and frankly, there isn't much to eat out there.

The Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule), a bowl-shaped, papery flower, fills the bill.

The name is a misnomer. It's not native to Iceland. It's from the cooler regions of Europe, Asia and North America, and the mountains of Central Asia. Botanists first described it in 1759.

Like all poppies, they're poisonous. In fact, scientists tell us that all parts of poppies are poisonous. That's because they contain toxic alkaloids. This one, P. nudicaule, contains a benzophenanthidine alkaloid, chelidonine.

Nevertheless, it's a unique, delightful plant. Each flower bursts forth from a hairy, leafless stem that curves like a question mark.  When a strong gust of wind further punctuates the plant, the petals drop to the ground. Spent. How fragile are the flowers!

Cultivars can be yellow, salmon, pink, orange, rose, cream and white, as well as tri-colored. The ones in our bee garden are Champagne Bubbles, 15-inch plants in yellow, orange, pink, scarlet, apricot and cream. 

Some of the other cultivars bear equally enticing names like Flamenco, Wonderland, Party Fun, Illumination, Meadow Pastels, Victory GiantsOregon Rainbows and Matador.

Today the honey bees and syrphid flies (aka hover flies or flower flies) jockeyed for position, almost engaging in critter combat in a swirl of autumn color, a veritable kaleidoscope of activity.

Matadors in the Champagne Bubbles...

A syrphid fly, aka hover fly or flower fly, on an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A syrphid fly, aka hover fly or flower fly, on an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A syrphid fly, aka hover fly or flower fly, on an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A green bottle fly soaking up sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A green bottle fly soaking up sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A green bottle fly soaking up sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee gathering pollen. In the foreground: a freeloader fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee gathering pollen. In the foreground: a freeloader fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee gathering pollen. In the foreground: a freeloader fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two syrphids sharing an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two syrphids sharing an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two syrphids sharing an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Next 5 stories | Last story

Webmaster Email: mdhachman@ucdavis.edu