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An Un-bee-lievably Generous Gift

Debra Jamison (center), state regent of the California State Society of the Daugthers of the American Revolution and Karen Montgomery (far right), state regent project chair, present the check to haven manager Chris Casey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What an un-bee-lievably generous gift!

Debra Jamison, state regent of the California State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. loves bees. So when it came time to select a fundraising project, she knew what she wanted to do.

Jamison adopted the motto, “Bees are at the heart of our existence” and vowed to support honey bee research and enhance honey bee environments to help the beleaguered bees.

Jamison, whose first name means “bee” in Hebrew, says she's had a lifelong “love and respect for bees.” Her project? She chose to help bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, and support the adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, owned and maintained by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Last year Jamison and her fellow members of the California State Society donated $30,000 to bee scientist Brian Johnson. Then this year they gifted $15,000 to the garden, which was planted in 2009 as a year-around food resource for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators. It also serves to create public awareness for the plight of bees, and as an educational garden, where visitors can glean ideas for their own gardens.

The check was presented at a “lunch-with-the-bees” celebration organized by the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Some 125 DAR members, some from as far away as Chico and San Diego, dined beneath a canopy of olive trees bordering the road.

“We appreciate this more than we can say,” said Ed Lewis, professor and vice chair of the department--and whose mother belongs to DAR.

On behalf of the department, haven manager Christine Casey accepted the check from Jamison and Karen Montgomery of Modesto, the state regent's project chair. The department used some of the funds to purchase two benches. Other projects will include a shade structure in the Growers Grove section and more bee habitat.

Honey bees prefaced the American Revolutionary War (1765-1783) by 143 years. European colonists brought the honey bee to Jamestown colony, Virginia, in 1622. Descendants of the American Revolutionary War formed DAR in  1890. 

DAR plaque on a bench in the garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
“When the state regent's project was conceived, I never imagined that honey bees would be in the serious state they are in,” Jamison told the luncheon crowd. “I could not have imagined that this amazing insect would make the cover of Time magazine, or that the California DAR would be involved in trying to do something to help the most vital insect in the animal kingdom.”

“Our 114 chapters and 15 districts have worked diligently to educate members, children, and the public about the plight of bees,” Jamison said. “This outreach has been truly outstanding. Add to that the phenomenal fundraising efforts. I truly thought that when I brought this project before the members that they might think, ‘Eeeeeuuuu, creepy insect, and weird state regent.'

Jamison singled out several DAR members for special recognition. She praised Karen Montgomery, state chair of the project and member of the Major Hugh Moss Chapter, Modesto, and committee members Susan Montgomery of the Major Hugh Moss Chapter; and Diane Groome, Carol Vercellino and Sharon Paukkert, all  of the José Maria Amador Chapter, Pleasanton. “Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for all of your work to raise funds for this project,” Jamison said

Jamison presented certificates of appreciation to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen and communication specialist Kathy Keatley Garvey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology for their work in helping DAR with the two-year project.

"Bee Patriotic” rally towels decorated each table. Last year Jamison's rally towels were lettered with “Bee-lieve in the Power of DAR." All those attending the March 28th luncheon received a “I Bee-long to DAR” recyclable grocery bag.

The crowd toured the haven and ended the day with hearing bee presentations in the Laidlaw facility conference room.

Mussen talked about the life cycle of bees and the issues bees face: malnutrition, pesticides, pests, parasites, diseases and stress. Malnutrition, Mussen said, is a bigger problem now than colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive.  An active colony of honey bees requires an acre-equivalent of mixed blooms, daily, to meet their nutritional needs.

Mussen urged the DAR members to plant for bees, especially plants that normally bloom in late summer and fall, or delay plantings so that they result in late summer/fall blossoms.  Good plant lists, he said, can be found on the UC Davis Entomology and Nematology's bee biology website (see Honey Bees), and on the Xerces website,  under “Pollinator Conservation Resource Center.”

Mussen also warned that simply because certain pesticides are labeled for use in organic gardening does not mean that they are less dangerous for non-target insects, particularly pollinators.  Also, insecticides that are watered into the soil and move from the roots, systemically throughout the plants, are secreted in the nectar and pollens when the treated plants bloom. 

“We are just studying certain mixes of fungicides, insect growth regulators, and newer adjuvants that can cause serious damage to honey bee brood, even though that information is not on the labels,” Mussen said.

In thanking the DAR members Johnson said the $30,000 will cover a two-year period of graduate student research. His graduate student, Gerard Smith, researches the effect of pesticide exposure in the field on honey bee foraging behavior, and graduate student Cameron Jasper studies the genetic basis of division of labor in honey bees.

The haven is open from dawn to dusk every day. Admission is free. To commemorate National Public Gardens Day, a special event (free) will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, May 9. It will include a guide tour at 6 p.m. and a give-away of sunflower seeds (while they last).

Debra Jamison (left), state regent, and Gayle Mooney, state treasurer, share a bench that the California State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased for the UC Davis bee garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Debra Jamison (left), state regent, and Gayle Mooney, state treasurer, share a bench that the California State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased for the UC Davis bee garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Debra Jamison (left), state regent, and Gayle Mooney, state treasurer, share a bench that the California State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased for the UC Davis bee garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

DAR members celebrating the bees beneath the olive trees on Bee Biology Road. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
DAR members celebrating the bees beneath the olive trees on Bee Biology Road. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

DAR members celebrating the bees beneath the olive trees on Bee Biology Road. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 5:28 PM

Agriculture research not immune to drought

Ag research at the West Side Research and Extension Center and other sites has been impacted by the California drought.
Even as farmers across California struggle with the third year of drought, so do University of California agriculture researchers, reported Todd Fitchette in Western Farm Press.

Fitchette opened his story with the plight of ag research at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center near Five Points. Many of the farmers in the area will receive no surface water allocation this year; neither will the research center.

The facility can pull water from a deep well, but it is not enough nor is the water quality adequate for all the farming operations, said Bob Hutmacher, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and center director. He said scientists at the station must cut back their water use this year by 25 percent.

“I can speak for myself: I have about a half dozen cotton projects and a sorghum project, along with a sesame project and a couple of other things I'm working on,” he said. “I'm downsizing most of them to the greatest degree I can and I'm going to cancel one of them.”

One trial that will not go forward at West Side is an almond variety trial. However, UC Cooperative Extension advisors in other areas are working with the Almond Board to keep the research underway. UCCE advisors Joe Connell will oversee the Chico State almond variety trial, Roger Duncan the Salida trial, and Gurreet Brar the Madera County trial.

The Western Farm Press Story included drought-related ag research news from myriad UCCE academics:

  • Duncan said his work with fruit and nut crops has not been negatively impacted by the drought.

  • David Doll, UCCE advisor in Merced County, said the increased reliance on groundwater has ruined several orchard nitrogen trials because the groundwater in northern Merced has high rates of nitrate nitrogen, which acts as a nitrogen fertilizer.

  • Dan Munk, UCCE advisor in Fresno County, said he will continue putting off alfalfa trials at the WSREC “indefinitely until a more secure water supply is available.”

  • Scott Stoddard, UCCE advisor in Merced County, reports positive and negative impacts from the drought. He won't do tomato research at West Side REC, but will continue work in sweet potatoes to determine how little water they need to produce a reasonable crop.

  • Chris Greer, UCCE advisor in Sutter, Yuba, Colusa and Glenn counties, said some rangeland trials were impacted by the lack of rain.

  • Bruce Lampinen, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, has seen his orchard trials in Arbuckle severely impacted by the drought.
Posted on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 10:51 AM

Cataloging Insect and Bat Diversity in Belize

Butterfly in the family Hesperiidae, found in Belize. (Photo by David Wyatt)
A unique effort to raise funds to collect insects in the biodiversity hotspot of Belize—which would result in specimens for the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, among other goals-- is galloping into the home stretch.

“Our crowd sourcing ends on Sunday night, April 20," said wildlife biologist David Wyatt, professor at Sacramento City College.  (To learn more about the effort or to donate, check out the "Cataloging Insect and Bat Diversity in Belize" website.)

Wyatt, a professor in the field ecology program and a veteran of nine trips to Belize, in Central America, has scheduled the trip for June 2-16, 2014. A veteran of nine trips to Belize, he will guide the research team of six other biologists, including entomologist Fran Keller, his former student. Keller, who is finishing her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology.

In addition to establishing a major entomology collection in Belize, the research team will conduct an inventory of bats from this area of Belize.  An added bonus to the bat work is that the team will be collecting insect ectoparasites from the bats - in particular the bat flies (Nycteribiidae and Streblidae). “These are a fascinating group of parasitic dipterans that only occur on bats with a high degree of coevolution between the bats and the bat flies,” said Wyatt, who specializes in mammals (ringtails and bats) and also extensively studies in entomology.

The researchers are also teaming with the Biodiversity Center of Belize to conduct DNA barcoding of the insect specimens they collect (each will donate a leg to the analysis) and also barcoding of small wing punches of skin from the bats.  Regular updates of the project are being blogged under the Lab Notes section of the website.  Supporters who donate are automatically informed of new Lab Notes updates by email.

Fran Keller
“The trip to Belize is an excellent opportunity but it is also a necessity,” Keller said.  “Belize is a biodiversity hotspot. There is not much known about the diversity of insects in Belize. We will be establishing an entomological collection in Belize that will act as a foundation and reference collection for this region. Not only will specimens be housed in Belize, but many specimens will be brought back to the U.S. to be housed in the Bohart Museum of Entomology and Sacramento City College.”

Keller said that starting an entomological collection “is not an easy thing nor is it inexpensive. With university and governmental cutbacks, funding for basic scientific research, such as biodiversity surveys and discovering new species, is rejected and being replaced by studies focused on climate change and alternative energy resources. Insects act as indicators of climate change and understanding the distribution of insects over time informs the scientific community on how various ecosystems are being altered by climate change.”

“Our crowdsource funding is an attempt to fund research through a unique online company called Experiment.com. We are presenting our research proposal to the public and the public will decide the value by backing the project with donations that range from $5 to--well we will take any maximum amount. Any funds over the requested amount will be applied to the collection set up equipment. With only three days left we are hoping to get as many backers as possible. Getting to work with David to establish this collection in Belize is also an opportunity for a former student to give back to a dedicated mentor.”

Keller is an alumnus of Sacramento City College. She began her academic career as a microbiology major but after completing classes in natural history, entomology, and field entomology, she turned her interests from single-celled organisms to multi-cellular animals. She is now teaching science at the college.  

Keller credited Wyatt with encouraging her to transfer to UC Davis to continue her education.  “David's enthusiasm and energy for teaching and entomology were contagious,” Keller said. “Although I really do enjoy cell and molecular biology, entomology is my true passion and David helped me recognize that fact. David and I have collected insects together many times in the Mojave Desert and Arizona. He also encouraged me to sign up for a one-week course in the summer to work with bats. Many bats rely on insects as their major food source.”

“I guess I have been an entomologist since I was a child but just didn't know it,” Keller said. During her childhood, she collected bees in jars and added flowers "to see what the bees would do." She and her sisters also collected caterpillars and watched them form chrysalids and emerge as butterflies.

Fran Keller chasing dragonflies. (Photo by Alex Wild)
Fran Keller chasing dragonflies. (Photo by Alex Wild)

Fran Keller chasing dragonflies. (Photo by Alex Wild)

David Wyatt with a ringtail.
David Wyatt with a ringtail.

David Wyatt with a ringtail.

Posted on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 6:15 PM

UC president Janet Napolitano visits Kearney REC

UC President Janet Napolitano discusses California agriculture on an aerial tour with farmer Don Bransford, who chairs the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources. (Photo: Doug Parker)
University of California president Janet Napolitano visited the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier this week to consult with her top agricultural advisors about a new food security and sustainability initiative, reported Hannah Furfaro in the Fresno Bee.

On her way to Kearney, Napolitano viewed California cropland, rivers and reservoirs that have been impacted by three years of drought.

"There are areas that clearly are being allowed to remain fallow due to drought, there are hills that should be green that are brown, and there are reservoirs where you can clearly see the water mark," she said. "Through the extension service we will work with growers throughout the state to manage this the best way possible."

Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau executive director, said growers' relationship with the UC's extension field offices has historically played a big role in the success of the Valley's agricultural economy, Furfaro reported. Advances made in the lab quickly make it to the farms, he said, in large part because of how well regional centers work with farmers.

Alec Rosenberg of the UC Newsroom filed a detailed account of President Napolitano's visit to the San Joaquin Valley. The article said she met with the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources to discuss how to engage all 10 campuses in making UC the "go-to" institution in the world for all issues related to food, including sustainability and nutrition.

Napolitano toured the Kearney REC, where she learned about UC's role in helping establish a blueberry industry in the San Joaquin Valley, efforts to preserve the safety of pistachios and other nut crops, and work underway in the center's mosquito lab.

Napolitano noted that she recently made ANR vice president Barbara Allen-Diaz a direct report to her because agricultural issues matter to California and the world, Rosenberg reported.

“It's great to see the incredible depth and breadth of California agriculture, and show the link between UC research and extension and the development of agriculture in the state,” said Allen-Diaz, who accompanied Napolitano on the tour.

Additional coverage:

Napolitano, UC's Kearney center focus on drought relief
Benjamin Genta, UCLA Daily Bruin

Posted on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 1:09 PM

Targeting the Varroa Mite

Varroa mite on a drone pupa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beekeepers know the varroa mite as "Public Enemy No. 1."

And it's an enemy to be reckoned with, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen told students in the UC Davis "Biology of Parasitism" class, taught by forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey and nematologist Steve Nadler, Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Guest-lecturing at a special session held at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, Mussen talked about the varroa mite--its history, biology, damage and control methods--and then opened several hives at the apiary.

The Varroa destructor, a native of Asia, is now found in hives throughout the world except in Australia. It was first detected in the United States in 1987.

The eight-legged reddish-brown parasite, about 1–1.8 mm long and 1.5–2 mm wide, is a blood sucker that's difficult to control, Mussen said. Mites transmit viruses (there are now some 22 named RNA viruses) that can wipe out a hive. A familiar mite-transmitted disease that beekeepers see is DWV or Deformed Wing Virus. Mites are also known lowering the protein level of a bee's blood, and reducing its weight and life span.

Mussen said that mites spread from colony to colony by phoresy (animal-to-animal transport). They ride on flying drones (males) and adult worker bees (females). They also spread changing hosts on flowers.

"A mite enters a honey bee cell just before or during the time it is being capped," Mussen said. "It feeds on older larva or prepupa. Sixty hours later, the mite lays its first egg. The egg will hatch in about 24 hours."

"The number and release of offspring depend on the length of the pupal stage. The queen is pupa for 8.5 days (no mites). The worker is pupa for 12.5 days (1.3 mites) and the drone is pupa for 14.7 days (3 or 4 mites)," he said. Thus, due to the longer time required for drone development, drone pupae get the worst of it.

"When maturing, the newly emerged mites climb onto adult bees and feed by puncturing the intersegmental membranes and sucking the bee blood," Mussen related. "Often these are nurse bees that stay around the brood nest. Sometimes the hosts are drones and older foragers that are flying from the hive every day. Eventually the new mite climbs off the nurse bee onto a comb in the brood nest and enters a cell. The reproductive cycle starts and within 6 days, 44 percent of the young mites have moved into the brood cells; within 12 days, 69 percent of the mites are in the brood cells; and within 24 days, 90 percent of the mite are in the brood cells."

"If there is no brood, the mite has to feed on adult bee blood every six days or so to remain alive," Mussen said. "Mite life expectancy in summer is around 60 days; bees about 42 days. Mite life expectancy in the winter is up to 9 months; bees about six months."

Mussen also discussed how to detect mite infestations through non-chemical and chemical methods,  and listed chemical treatments being used throughout the nation. Mites are developing resistance to a few chemical treatments, he pointed out. And, some of the chemical treatments not only kill the mites, but damage or kill the queen and the brood.

Beekeepers who try to go organic, figuring that "if the bees can't make it on their own--if they're not fit--let them die" are really doing a disservice to neighboring beekeepers, Mussen said. The mite will overrun a colony and then  infest other colonies.

Public Enemy No. 1--definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (second from left) talks to a UC Davis class in the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Third from left is forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, one of the two class instructors.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (second from left) talks to a UC Davis class in the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Third from left is forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, one of the two class instructors.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (second from left) talks to a UC Davis class in the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Third from left is forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, one of the two class instructors.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen shows a frame to the students. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen shows a frame to the students. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen shows a frame to the students. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Varroa mites are reddish brown. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Varroa mites are reddish brown. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Varroa mites are reddish brown. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen reaches for a smoker as a bee (far left) buzzes off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen reaches for a smoker as a bee (far left) buzzes off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen reaches for a smoker as a bee (far left) buzzes off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 5:18 PM

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