Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology since 1976 and an upcoming retiree, will be "roasted" at the California State Beekeepers' Association conference, to be held Nov 19-21 at Lake Tahoe, Nev.
But someone will be going home with a little piece of him.
Mussen is donating an auction item, a mounted photo of "The Sting," also known as "The Bee Sting Felt Around the World."
What's the story behind the story? It was like this: During a lunch hour a couple of years ago, Mussen and I were walking through the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility when he said: "Kathy, get your camera ready. This bee is about to sting me."
The bee was NOT about to sting him--the bee WAS stinging him. It was one of bee scientist Susan Cobey's Carniolan bees, doing what bees do--defending the hive.
I shot a series of four photos within a second with my Nikon D700, mounted with a 105mm macro lens and a motor drive.
The second photo in the series went on to win best feature photo and the professional skill award in a competition hosted by the international Association for Communication Excellence, a professional organization comprised of communicators, educators and information technologists in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences. The Sacramento Bee picked it up and later selected it one of its top 15 stories of 2012. Huffington Post named it one of the Most Amazing Photos of 2012. More accolades followed: Twister Sifter singled it out as one of the World's Most Perfectly Timed Photos. Along the way, it made "Picture of the Day" on scores of websites. (Bug Squad blogs about this image: The Sting, Perfectly Timed Photos, and The Bee Sting Felt Around the World.)
The copyrighted photo also appears to be one of the most stolen images on the internet. It's gone around the world innumerable times, mostly uncredited or with its copyright ripped off or replaced with someone else's copyright.
Photo aficionados marveled at the "one-of-a-kind" photo of a bee sting in action, with its abdominal tissue trailing. Others said it was Photoshopped. Not! Some said I spent the day torturing bees. Not! I don't kill bees; I photograph them. Some pitied the "poor guy" getting stung and asked how could I be so cruel as not to help him. Not what happened!
Mussen's wife later presented him with a mousepad, a coffee cup and a handmade Christmas ornament of the image. It's quite a conversation piece in Mussen's office on the third floor Briggs Hall. But it won't be for long. Mussen will be vacating his quarters and retiring in June of 2014.
But, back to the California State Beekeepers' Association.
Mussen's colleagues are going to roast him, sure as shootin' (or maybe sure as stingin'). They'll joke about his Buddy Holly glasses in the 1970s, his amicable personality, and his inability to keep in contact via cell phone (he doesn't carry one).
But someone, sure as shootin' (or maybe sure as stingin') is going home with a piece of him.
Eric Mussen and the famous bee sting photo showing a bee stinging his wrist. This mounted photo will be auctioned off at the California State Beekeepers' Association conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Eric Mussen using his mouse pad. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's a coffee cup without a bee sting image on it? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
That's a question frequently asked of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Fact is, he's an "unbee-lievable" wealth of information. The honey bee guru has served as Extension apiculturist since 1976 and writes a newsletter, from the UC apiaries and Bee Briefs, both posted on his website. When Mussen retires in June of 2014 (yes, the "R" word), he will be sorely missed.
One of the latest questions:
"A few weeks ago, the day before I left on a trip, I noticed decreased activity in my top bar hive. I looked in and saw very few bees, the queen and these dead pupae. There was no bad smell or bodies in or around the hive. When I returned and examined the hive yesterday, all the honey had been robbed (as I expected), there were only two dead bees on the floor and the remaining bee bread. I haven't looked into my three Langstroth hives yet, but the activity level looks normal. Do you have any ideas on what killed the colony, whether I need to take any special precautions regarding my other hives and whether I need to treat the top bar hive in someway before putting another colony in next spring?"
The concerned beekeeper attached a photo in his email.
Mussen responded: "No, I cannot tell you what killed the bees by looking at a photograph. But, there are clues. First, very few things happen in a colony that results in black bees. The most common cause is 'chilled brood.' That means that the brood was not incubated at the proper temperature and finally succumbed to cooler temperatures, turning black during the process. Depending upon when that happened, the pupae would be in various stages of completion to adult bees. The second set of possibilities revolves around infections with viruses. Although it is called "black queen cell virus," that virus can infect and discolor worker bees. A second RNA virus that leads to black bees is 'chronic bee paralysis.' In that case, though, it is adult bees that get 'black and greasy.' Actually, the bees have had their hairs scraped off by their nest mates. When truly bald, the exoskeleton is black and the cuticle is waxy (greasy). So, it sounds like your colony failed to thrive for some reason. The bees could no longer adequately feed or incubate the brood (lack of nurse bees?). Then, things just spiraled down. Robbing was included in the mix when the colony became weakened. Since I have no idea what put the colony out of business, I would start, again, next season using the same combs. Wait until it is warm and a good pollen flow is going on."
Failure to thrive? How many times have we heard that? It applies to bees, too.
This honey bee is doing poorly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Would the extinction of honey bees lead directly to the extinction of humans?"
That's a recent question posed on Quora, where folks can ask questions and receive answers.
The answer is "no."
"We are a resilient species that existed before beekeeping and will exist after it… but our cuisine will be very different," wrote Matan Shelomi, a Harvard alumnus and UC Davis graduate student seeking his doctorate at the University of California, Davis.
"Assuming native bees and other pollinators do not take over the job of the honey bee Apis mellifera, many of our favorite fruits and vegetables will cease to exist, or will require the very labor intensive manual pollination we see in parts of China," Shelomi noted. "Kiss almonds goodbye, for example. Staple crops like wheat, corn, and rice are not bee pollinated, however, so starvation won't be an issue."
Shelomi, who has received international recognition for his answers on Quora, is "right on," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"We've not always had honey bees here," Mussen pointed out. Indeed, the European colonists brought the honey bee to what is now Virginia in 1622. The Native American Indians had no honey bees, but they did have lots of other pollinators, including native bees. (We Californians did not obtain the services of the honey bee in our state until 1853; that's when the first honey bees arrived.)
Unfortunately, people are falsey quoting Albert Einstein as saying "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” Al Gore never invented the Internet, and Albert Einstein never said that about bees.
Without honey bees, our menu choices would be much different. But would the human race become extinct?
A honey bee heading toward almond blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
One of the most prominent and distant--as in far away--visitors to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, was Mark Leech of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.
Leech visited the garden several years ago to research his book, Bee Friendly: A Planting Guide for European Honeybees and Australia Native Pollinators for the Australian Rural Industries R&D Corp (RIRDC).
"The book," he told us, "is to encourage planting for bee forage across the landscape from urban to the rural environment and all climate zones."
Leech recently provided us with a copy of the finished work, which is absolutely magnificent. It's informative, educational and colorful and is bound to make a difference.
On Page 1, he writes: "The world has become aware of the plight of the honeybee. The reported collapse of honeybee population in North America and Europe, and the fear of a food crisis, have led people around the world to become concerned. Shrinking resources, increased urbanization, ever expanding corporate agriculture with its push for monoculture, greater use of insecticides and herbicides, changes to grazing practices, a global warning trend and climatic chare are all placing pressure on honeybee and native pollinator population. It is in this context that this book was produced, to guide planting decisions in favour of plants theat benefit honeybees and native pollinatiors."
He devotes one page to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, which was planted in the fall of 2009 and is operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "In response to colony collapse and threats to the US apiary industry, Häagen-Dazs, a well-known ice cream brand, launched the Häagen-Dazs Loves HoneyBees' campaign in February 2008, committing significant funding to both the University of California, Davis and Pennsylvania State University for honeybee research. Its contribution to UC Davis resulted in a bee garden as a demonstration, education and research tool."
"The purpose of the Honeybee Haven garden is to provide a year-round food source for honeybees," Leech continued. "One of the design criteria in the competition that was held was that the Honeybee Haven should inspire the development of honeybee garens in a variety of settings, including backyards, public gardens, agricultural easements, urban rooftoops and other urban species."
For the front and back covers of the book, Leech chose an mage of a bee foraging on a pink zinnia (a photo taken by yours truly in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven).
His species pages contain 193 species, native and exotic, "that were chosen to represent a selection of useful bee forage. Many of the plants are known as top producers of both pollen and nectar, a few are nectar only, and some are pollen only."
Among those contributing to the book from the United States: Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture; bee scientist Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota; and Kathy Kellison, executive director of Partners for Sustainable Pollination.
It's a book well worth reading. You can download a free PDF of the book from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation website at http://www.rirdc.gov.au/. Go to publications and look under honeybees. You can also order a bound copy through Mark Leech at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This photo of a bee foraging on a zinnia, taken in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, graces the front and back covers of "Bee Friendly: A Planting Guide for European Honeybees and Australia Native Pollinators." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Leslie Saul-Gershenz, who researches how blister beetle nest parasites cooperate to mimic the sex pheromone of a digger bee.
However, there may be sad ending...more about that later.
Members and their guests will gather Nov. 7 at 9:15 a.m. at their meeting site, the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District conference room, 155 Mason Circle, Concord. for coffee and registration.
Then, at 9:30 a.m., Saul-Gershenz will discuss “Meloid Parasites of Solitary Bees." A graduate student in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and a co-founder of SaveNature.Org, Saul-Gershenz researches a solitary ground-nesting bee, Habropoda pallida and its nest parasite, a blister beetle, Meloe franciscanus, found in the Mojave National Preserve.
She is the lead author of “Blister Beetle Nest Parasites Cooperate to Mimic the Sex Pheromone of the Solitary Bee Habropoda pallida (Hymenoptera: Apidae)," co-authored by professor Jocelyn G. Millar and staff research associate J. Steven McElfresh, both of UC Riverside. The Mojave National Preserve Science News published the peer-reviewed research in its April 2012 edition.
"The solitary bee is the first native bee to emerge in the spring on the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve," said Saul-Gershenz. “The adult beetles emerge on the dunes in the winter months at Kelso Dunes and feed exclusively on the leaves of Astragalus lentiginosus, which leafs out in January."
The bee's emergence is generally synchronized with the onset of blooms of the Borrego milkvetch, which is the sole host plant of adults of the blister beetle at Kelso Dunes.
The UC Davis ecologist said the larvae of the parasitic blister beetle produce a chemical cue or a pheromone similar to that of a female solitary bee to lure males to the larval aggregation. The larvae attach to the male bee and then transfer to the female during mating. The end result: the larvae wind up in the nest of a female bee, where they eat the nest provisions and likely the host egg.
The work of Saul-Gershenz, Millar and McElfresh appears in a newly published academic book, Sensory Ecology, Behaviour, and Evolution (Oxford University Press) by Martin Stevens. Another book, pending publication in December, also will contain their work: the second edition of Pheromones and Animal Behaviour (Cambridge University) by Tristram Wyatt.
Previously, three other books summarized their research:
Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees Are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them by Laurence Packer and published in 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers, Ltd.
Cuticular Hydrocarbons: Biology, Biochemistry and Chemical Ecology by editors A. Bagnères-Urbany and G. Bloomquist and published in 2010 by Cambridge University Press.
The Other Insect Societies by James T. Costa, and published in 2006 by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Now, back to what may be a sad ending.
Following Saul-Gershenz' one-hour talk, the Nor Cal Entomology Society members will discuss the future of the organization, founded in 1930. Then it was known as the Northern California Entomology Club. Membership continues to be open to all interested persons, with dues at $10 a year. Currently the society meets three times a year: in Sacramento, at UC Davis, and in Concord.
Nor Cal Entomology president Robert Dowell of the California Department of Food and Agriculture will moderate the disussion.
“We have reached a critical juncture in the existence of the organization,” secretary-treasurer Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, wrote to the members in an email. “At its beginning, the society served as the meeting place for entomologists mostly from UC Berkeley and UC Davis, as well as other members who appreciated their lively discussions of research and pest control. Representatives from industry and regulatory establishments also participated. A revolving system of society chairs was instituted and membership was good.”
“Over time, the climate has changed. UC Berkeley no longer has an entomology department or hardly any entomologists anymore,” said Mussen, who will retire from UC Davis in June 2014.
Those planning to attend to hear the talk and discuss the future of the organization should contact Mussen at email@example.com or telephone him at (530) 753-0472 by Nov. 1. And oh, yes, there's a luncheon to be served by Kinder's Meats. Mussen is taking reservations (and payment) for that, too.
A digger bee, Habropoda pallida, with blister beetle larvae. (Photo by Leslie Saul-Gershenz)