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Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen

A Gathering of Beekeepers: Follow That Buzz!

Bill Lewis, CSBA president
Follow that buzz!

When the California State Beekeepers' Association, founded in 1889, meets Nov. 18-20 in Valencia for its 2014 convention, it will mark a milestone: 125 years of beekeeping. Not so coincidentally, the theme is "Celebrating 125 Years of California Beekeeping."

And to think that California's first honey bees are "fairly new" newcomers: they didn't arrive in the Golden State (San Jose area) until 1853.

The conference promises to be educational, informative, timely and fun. "We will hear about things going on in the world of beekeeping on the local, state, and national levels," said CSBA president Bill Lewis, who lives in the San Fernando Valley and maintains 650 colonies of bees (Bill's Bees) with his wife, Liane, and business partner, Clyde Steese.

Topics range from “Keeping Bees Safe in Almonds" and “Land Trusts Working with Beekeepers," to "Mead Making" and "Urban Beekeeping, Beginner to Advanced."

Among the hot topics: Entomologist Reed Johnson of The Ohio State University will speak on  “The Effects of Bee Safe Insecticide" on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Biologist Thomas Seeley of Cornell University will speak on "Survivor Population of European Honey Bees Living Wild in New York State” at the research luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 20. He is also scheduled for two other talks, "Honeybee Democracy" (the title of one of his books) and "The Bee Hive as a Honey Factory," both on Nov. 20. In addition, speakers will address such topics as forage, land management, queen health, genetic diversity, and pests and diseases.

One of the featured presentations will be the richly illustrated documentary, "Almond Odyssey," a look at California's almond pollination season, the world's largest managed pollination event. The state's 900,000 acres of almonds draw beekeepers and their bees from all over the country.

The gathering of beekeepers will include multiple generations of family-owned commercial beekeeping operations, bee hobbyists, and those hoping to start their very first bee hive, Lewis says. They're there to learn the latest about beekeeping from world-renowned researchers and industry authorities. 

The University of California, Davis, is expected to be well represented. Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology serves as the organization's current apiculturist and parliamentarian (as well as a frequent speaker). He will introduce the new Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Nino in a Nov. 20th presentation titled "California Extension Apiculturist--Passing the Torch." (For a complete list of sessions and speaker biographies and to register for the conferene,  access the CSBA website.)
 
CSBA's mission is to support and promote commercial beekeepers and pollination services in California's agricultural farmlands. Each year funds raised at the CSBA convention go to research. Researchers attend the conference and provide updates. They are in "the front lines of the bee health battle," Lewis noted.  

The conference (as well as membership in CSBA) is open to all interested persons.

CSBA President Bill Lewis of the San Fernando Valley talks bees with Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) at the California Agriculture Day, State Capitol, in March. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
CSBA President Bill Lewis of the San Fernando Valley talks bees with Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) at the California Agriculture Day, State Capitol, in March. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

CSBA President Bill Lewis of the San Fernando Valley talks bees with Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) at the California Agriculture Day, State Capitol, in March. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees pollinating almonds.  (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees pollinating almonds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees pollinating almonds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 9:23 PM

Bee BMP: 'A' for Communication

Honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Can you say "Bee BMP?"

That's a short-cut for "Bee Best Management Practices."

The Almond Board of California today unveiled its long-awaited "Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds."

It's an important document because it is aimed at protecting the honey bees that pollinate California's 900,000 acres of almonds. Last spring some 80,000 colonies died because pesticides reached them before the beekeepers did, that is, before the beekeepers could remove them from the orchards after pollination season. It amounted to a lack of communication.

The editors spelled out the importance of the document at the onset:

"Honey bees are essential for successful pollination of almonds and the long-term health of the California Almond industry. Why should almond growers — and all parties involved in almond pollination — care about healthy, strong bees? First, bees are a valuable resource and almond production input, and the time they spend in almonds impacts hive health throughout the year, from the time they leave almond orchards until they return the next season. Second, although almonds are only one of more than 90 foods that rely on pollination by bees, because of its size and number of bees needed, the California Almond industry is increasingly being watched by the public on matters related to the health and stability of honey bee populations. Of particular concern at this time is how to manage the use of pest control materials in ways that minimize their possible impact on honey bees. It is important that growers of all crops implement best management practices to support bee health, and for those whose crops rely on honey bee pollination, to consider honey bee health not only during the pollination season, but during the entire year."

The Bee BMP zeroed in on four key precautions:

1. Maintain clear communication among all parties involved, particularly on the specifics of pesticide application.
2. If it is necessary to spray the orchard, for instance with fungicides, do so in the late afternoon or evening.
3. Until more is known, avoid tank-mixing products during bloom.
4. Avoid applying insecticides during bloom until more is known about the effects on honey bees, particularly to young, developing bees in the hive. Fortunately, there are several insecticide application timing options other than bloom time treatments.

The document advocates that a clear chain of communication be established among all parties involved in pollination and pest management during almond bloom. This should definitely help prevent bee losses before, during and after the pollination season.

Three officials from the Almond Board of California did an excellent job editing the document and drawing input from the industries: 

  • Bob Curtis, associate director, Agricultural Affairs
  • Gabriele Ludwig, associate director, Environmental Affairs
  • Danielle Veenstra, specialist, Agricultural and Environmental Affairs

They received input from 10 contributing editors and reviewers: 

  • Gene Brandi, Gene Brandi Apiaries
  • Jackie Park-Burris, Jackie Park-Burris Queens
  • Orin Johnson, Johnson Apiaries
  • Gordon Wardell, director, Pollination Operations, Paramount Farming Company
  • George Farnsworth, California Department of Pesticide Regulation
  • Karen Francone, California Department of Pesticide Regulation
  • Eric Mussen, Extension Apiculturist retired, UC Davis
  • Thomas Steeger, Office of Pesticide Programs, U.S. EPA
  • CropLife America
  • Christi Heintz, Project Apis m.

You can download the document on the Almond Board of California website. (Look under "growers" at the top of the home page.)

Michael
Michael "Kim" Fondrk of UC Davis tends Robert Page's bees in a Dixon, Calif. almond orchard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Michael "Kim" Fondrk of UC Davis tends Robert Page's bees in a Dixon, Calif. almond orchard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A frame of healthy bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A frame of healthy bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A frame of healthy bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 9:19 PM

Best Management Practices for Honey Bees

The Almond Board of California will unveil its Honey Bee Best Management Practices tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 16) in an ongoing effort to promote and protect bee health.

The board will do so by holding a press conference at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time with questions directed at Richard Waycott, CEO, Almond Board of California; 
Bob Curtis, associate director of Agricultural Affairs, Almond Board of California
 and Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

It promises to be a comprehensive set of Best Management Practices or BMPs. Media members who wish to participate can access this page.

Remember last spring when beekeepers in the San Joaquin Valley almond orchards reported losing 80,000 colonies?  Beekeepers believe that pesticides killed their bees after the almond pollination season ended but just before they could move their bees to another site.

Mussen wrote about the issue in the March/April edition of his newsletter, from the UC apiaries, published on his website. We also blogged about it.

"When should the colonies be allowed to leave the orchards?" Mussen asked. "When pollination no longer is happening. That does not mean that the bees should remain in place until the last petal falls from the last blossom."

Communication is key to a good BMP. The Almond Board recently published three informational pieces, “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds,” "Honey Bee Best Management Practices Quick Guide for Almonds,” and “Applicator/Driver Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds” (in English and Spanish).

The topics include:

  • Preparing for arrival
  • Assessing hive strength and quality
  • Protecting honey bees at bloom
  • Honey bees and insecticides
  • Honey bees and fungicides
  • Using integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to minimize agricultural sprays
  • Honey bees and self-compatible almond varieties
  • Best management practices for pest control during almond bloom
  • Removing honey bees from the orchard
  • Addressing suspected pesticide-related honey bee losses
  • What to expect in an investigation

The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), headed by Dennis van Engelsdorp, produced three short videos as the result of a 2012-2013 beekeeping survey.  Project Apis m (PAm) published some of the information online about varroa mites, nosema, honey bee nutrition and the like.

It's important for almond growers and beekeepers to keep the lines of communication open. Bees make a "bee line" toward the almond blossoms, but the growers and the beekeepers don't always make a timely "bee line" toward one another to resolve issues that surface.

Honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Almond orchard buzzing with bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almond orchard buzzing with bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Almond orchard buzzing with bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 9:26 PM

Why Do Honey Bees Die When They Sting

Eric Mussen
"Why do honey bees die when they sting?"

That's the question PBS Newshour asked Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology for its "Just Ask" feature.  

Mussen, who retired in June after 38 years of service but continues to maintain an office in Briggs Hall on the UC Davis campus, has been stung plenty of times. And the whole world knew it when this photo of "The Sting" (below) went viral.

When a bee stings, it cannot remove its barbed stinger without yanking out its abdominal tissue, aka "guts." It's basically a suicide mission in defense of its hive. Of the three castes in the colony, only the female worker bee dies when it stings. The queen can sting multiple times. The drone (male) has no stinger.

The stinger is hollow and pointed, like a hypodermic needle, Mussen told PBS Newshour reporter Anna Christiansen. The stinger, he explained, contains two rows of lancets, or saw-toothed blades. 

Christianson also quoted Mark Winston, biologist and author of Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive (Harvard University Press) as saying that the blades alternate, “scissoring together into your flesh."

"It looks — and works — like a screw anchor, meaning that once in, the stinger can't retract," Christianson wrote. "Muscles connect the stinger to a venom sac, from which a cell-destroying toxin is pumped into the hole."

Mussen further explains bee stings in a UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Pest Note, Bee and Wasp Stings.

"Stingers are effective weapons because they deliver a venom that causes pain when injected into the skin," Mussen wrote. "The major chemical responsible for this is melittin; it stimulates the nerve endings of pain receptors in the skin. The result is a very uncomfortable sensation, which begins as a sharp pain that lasts a few minutes and then becomes a dull ache. Even up to a few days later, the tissue may still be sensitive to the touch."

"The body responds to stings by liberating fluid from the blood to flush venom components from the area. This causes redness and swelling at the sting site. If this isn't the first time the person has been stung by that species of insect, it is likely that the immune system will recognize the venom and enhance the disposal procedure. This can lead to very large swelling around the sting site or in a whole portion of the body. The area is quite likely to itch. Oral and topical antihistamines should help prevent or reduce the itching and swelling. Try not to rub or scratch the sting site, because microbes from the surface of the skin could be introduced into the wound, resulting in an infection."

Mussen says that nearly everyone has been stung by an insect at one time or another., and for beekeepers, it comes with the occupation.  "It's an unpleasant experience that people hope not to repeat, but for most people the damage inflicted is only temporary pain," Mussen wrote. "Only a very limited portion of the population—one to two people out of 1,000—is allergic or hypersensitive to bee or wasp stings. Although this publication is about stings from bees and wasps, the information pertains to stings from fire ants as well."

He warns that it is important to remove the stinger immediately because the venom will continue to pump for 45 to 60 seconds following a sting.  Mussen usually scrapes and removes the stinger with a fingernail. "Much has been written about the proper way to remove a bee stinger, but new information indicates it doesn't matter how you get it out as long as it is removed as soon as possible. Fingernails or the edge of a credit card are both effective tools. If a stinger is removed within 15 seconds of the sting, the severity of the sting is reduced."

Read more about bee stings in the PBS Newshour feature question, and in the UC IPM Pest Note, Bee and Wasp Stings.

A honey bee embeds its stinger in the wrist of Eric Mussen and then tries to pull away. Note the abdominal tissue trailing. (This is an actual photo of a bee sting; it was not posed.) (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee embeds its stinger in the wrist of Eric Mussen and then tries to pull away. Note the abdominal tissue trailing. (This is an actual photo of a bee sting; it was not posed.) (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee embeds its stinger in the wrist of Eric Mussen and then tries to pull away. Note the abdominal tissue trailing. (This is an actual photo of a bee sting; it was not posed.) (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The bee has pulled away to die, leaving the stinger and abdominal tissue behind. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The bee has pulled away to die, leaving the stinger and abdominal tissue behind. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The bee has pulled away to die, leaving the stinger and abdominal tissue behind. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 5:39 PM
Tags: bee sting (7), Eric Mussen (181), honey bees (52), PBS Newshour (3), stinger (4)

Better Statistics for the Bees

Eric Mussen
The bees. What about the bees? How are they doing?

Better, says retired Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who today published the last edition of his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries. Last? "Or, it's the last edition I'm solely responsible for."

Mussen retired in June after 38 years of service. Now it's "Welcome, Elina Lastro," who joined the department this week. 

"The summary data from this spring's suvey on winter colony loss is available for review on beeinformed.org, the public's entry to information from the Bee Informed Parnership (BIP)," Mussen wrote. "Since it is called winter loss, it does not necessarily  record the total losses in many operations because colonies are lost over the entire year, picking up considerably in fall and winter. Until recently the summer losses, often replaced using colony splits, were unreported. The good news is that the national average loss declined to 20.7 percent, the best in about a decade. Not many beekeepers blamed CCD (no logical explanation) for their losses, but mites and starvation were leading explanations." 

Mussen pointed out that "since the data was listed by state averages, I wondered if that data were placed on a map of the U.S., could we see some sort of regional patterns." So, he did just that.

"Using colored pencils and scribbling, I colored like a kindergartner (or at least like I did in kindergarten and still  do.), I did not see much of a pattern that stuck out. The states with the highest average losses (over 60 percent) did form a cluster (Illinois, Indiana and  Michigan). The states with losses in the 50 percent range were all east of the Mississippi River: Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, West Virginia, New York and New Hampshire. States with losses in the 40 percent range were spread equally all over the country: Oregon, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, Minnesota, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Connecticut.

"States with losses in the 30 percent range filled in a swath of states just south of the 50 and 60 percent losses, as well as Washington, Utah, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine. States with losses in the 20 percent range included seven of our southeastern states: Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas. California, Idaho, Oklahoma and Hawaii showed state average losses below 20 percent."

Be sure to check out his latest newsletter. His website also lists many of his other newsletters and the Bee Briefs he's written over the last 38 years.

 

A honey bee foraging on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee foraging on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee foraging on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A sip of nectar from a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A sip of nectar from a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A sip of nectar from a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, September 5, 2014 at 6:17 PM

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