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Posts Tagged: honey bees

What's It Like Inside a Bee?

USDA/ARS research entomologist Jay Evans
What's it like inside a bee?

A honey bee, that is.

Research entomologist Jay Evans of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) will discuss "What's It Like Inside a Bee? Genetic Approaches to Honey Bee Health" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 4 in 122 Briggs Hall.

The Marin County Beekeepers will host the bee scientist.

"Honey bees are the preferred agricultural pollinators worldwide, and are important natural pollinators in Europe, Asia, and Africa," Evans says. "The European honey bee, Apis mellifera, is both aided and abused by humans, leading to a worldwide distribution on one side, and alarming regional die-offs on the other.  Primary causes of honey bee colony death range from inadequate nutrition to stress from chemical exposure and maladies caused by a diverse set of parasites and pathogens."

"Often, domesticated honey bees face two or more stress agents simultaneously. Genetic approaches are being used to determine and mitigate the causes of bee declines. Genetics screens are available for each of the major biotic threats to bees, and screens have been used to determine risk levels for these threats in the field.  Thanks to extensive analyses of the honey bee genome, tools are also available to screen bees for heritable traits that enable disease resistance, and to query the expressed genes of bees to infer responses to chemicals and biological stress.  This talk will cover genetic insights into honey bee health, disease resistance and susceptibility to chemical insults."

Evans received his undergraduate degree in biology at Princeton and his doctorate in biology from the University of Utah. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Georgia, where he became interested in honey bees. After a brief project on queen production at the University of Arizona, he joined the USDA/ARS as a research entomologist with the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, MD.  

He is especially interested in insect immunity and in the abilities of social insects to evade their many parasites and pathogens. He focuses his projects on a range of bee pests including the American foulbrood bacterium, small hive beetles, nosema, viral pests and varroa mites.

Evans was an early proponent of the Honey Bee Genome Project and helped recruit and organize scientists interested in applied genomics for bees.  He has improved and applied genetic screens for possible causes of colony collapse disorder and is now heading a consortium to sequence the genome of the Varroa mite in order to develop novel control methods for this key pest.

Plans call for recording the seminar for later posting on UCTV.

A honey bee necatring on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee necatring on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee necatring on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, January 30, 2015 at 9:11 PM

Why Spring Doesn't Seem So Distant

The honey bees are hungry.

Those venturing out from their colonies as the temperatures edge toward 55 degrees or more aren't finding much. It's the dead of winter. Spring seems so distant.

But wait, the flowering quince is blooming.

The flowering quince (genus Chaenomeles) from the rose family (Rosaceae) is among the first flowers of the new year to bloom.  The soft pinks loaded with gold--yellow pollen--are the best!

There's no argument from the honey bees.

Somehow or another, spring doesn't seem so distant.

Honey bee foraging in a flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging in a flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee foraging in a flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee on a sea of pink: flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee on a sea of pink: flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee on a sea of pink: flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue skies, an early blooming quince, a honey bee and all's right with the world. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue skies, an early blooming quince, a honey bee and all's right with the world. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue skies, an early blooming quince, a honey bee and all's right with the world. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 9:44 PM

Umm, Where's the Bee?

If there's one thing that entomologists hate, it's journalists who mistake a fly for a bee.

To entomologists, it's like mistaking a referee for a football player (well, they are on the same playing field) or a model airplane for a Lear jet (well, they do share the same sky) or a Volkswagen for a Ferrari (well, they do share the same road).

No. No. No.

Fact is, some journalists are so busy meeting deadlines that they don't stop and smell the flowers--or see what's foraging on them.

It's not just the news media. Lately we've been seeing dozens of drone flies (Eristalis tenax) masquerading as honey bees (Apis mellifera) in stock photo catalogs, on Facebook and Flickr pages, and on honey bee websites.  Last week an environmental friendly organization attacked a pesticide company for killing bees but posted a photo of a fly instead of a bee on its website. Another faux pas: a fly showed up on the cover of the celebrated book, Bees of the World.

Gee, if it visits flowers, it must be a bee, right? Wrong. Not all floral visitors are bees.

If it's a pollinator, it must be a bee, right? Wrong. Flies can be pollinators, too.

If it visits flowers, pollinates flowers, and is about the size of a honey bee, it's a honey bee, right? Wrong. Those three descriptions fit drone flies, too.

Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:

  • A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
  • A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
  • A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does. 

Bottom line: if you're not sure if it's a fly or a bee, contact an entomologist near you.

A drone fly, Eristalis tenax (left),  and a syrphid fly. They're from the same family, Syrphidae, and are often mistaken for honey bees.. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A drone fly, Eristalis tenax (left), and a syrphid fly. They're from the same family, Syrphidae, and are often mistaken for honey bees.. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A drone fly, Eristalis tenax (left), and a syrphid fly. They're from the same family, Syrphidae and are often mistaken for honey bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee collecting pollen. Lower right: a freeloader fly.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee collecting pollen. Lower right: a freeloader fly.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee collecting pollen. Lower right: a freeloader fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy  Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of a syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly.  Note the setae or bristle on the head. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly. Note the setae or bristle on the head. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of a syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly. Note the setae or bristle on the head. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 5:49 PM

C'mon In, the Pollen's Fine!

It's a cold spell.

As temperatures dip throughout much of California, and honey bees snuggle inside their hives, it's "bees-ness" in southern California this week.

Everything's abuzz as two national bee organizations host their annual conventions: The American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) is meeting for its 46th annual convention Jan. 6-10 in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County. And the North American Beekeeping Conference and Trade Show is underway Jan. 6-10 in the Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, Orange County.

The topics will encompass bee health, including pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress. Everything about the bee-leagured bees.

Meanwhile, a few almond trees are blooming (one in the Benicia State Recreation Area burst into bloom before Christmas Day) and more and more bees are venturing out as the temperatures hit 55.

If you have winter blossoms, odds are you're getting bee visits during the sun breaks. In our yard, the bees love the Bacopa, a groundcover that fought--and won--the battle with Jack Frost. Strong winds and rain storms hammered and stripped some of the blossoms, but the bees don't care. The pollen is there.

A pollen-covered honey bee heading toward Bacopa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A pollen-covered honey bee heading toward Bacopa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A pollen-covered honey bee heading toward Bacopa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

C'mon in, the pollen's fine! A honey bee reaching for pollen.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
C'mon in, the pollen's fine! A honey bee reaching for pollen.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

C'mon in, the pollen's fine! A honey bee reaching for pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 at 5:38 PM

The Almonds Are Blooming! The Almonds Are Blooming!

The almonds are blooming! The almonds are blooming!

Well, at least one almond tree in the Benicia State Recreation Area is blooming. On a drive to Benicia on Christmas Day, we spotted several blooms on an almond tree. The tree, a foot from the parking lot, was getting a little southern exposure--and soaking in the warmth of the sun bouncing off the asphalt.

California almonds don't usually bloom 'til around Feb. 14--Valentine's Day--but this tree has always been an early bloomer. It was blooming on New Year's Day in 2014.

Unfortunately, the honey bees hadn't found it yet.

But they did find the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, where jade and oxalis have burst into bloom, and they also found the winter vegetables in the Avant Community Park in downtown Benicia. The bees were working the broccoli blossoms, two bees at a time.

Who says broccoli isn't good for you?

An almond tree at the Benicia State Recreation Area was blooming on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
An almond tree at the Benicia State Recreation Area was blooming on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

An almond tree at the Benicia State Recreation Area was blooming on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees working the broccoli blossoms in the Avant Community Garden, Benicia, on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees working the broccoli blossoms in the Avant Community Garden, Benicia, on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees working the broccoli blossoms in the Avant Community Garden, Benicia, on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee forages on an oxalis blossom on Christmas Day at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee forages on an oxalis blossom on Christmas Day at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee forages on an oxalis blossom on Christmas Day at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, December 29, 2014 at 8:32 PM

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