Posts Tagged: almonds
He sounded the alarm.
“We need 1.6 million colonies, or two colonies per acre, and California has only about 500,000 colonies that can be used for that purpose,” said Mussen in a news release we posted Feb. 8 on the Department of Entomology website. “We need to bring in a million more colonies but due to the winter losses, we may not have enough bees.”
Those winter losses--still being tabulated--and the resulting fewer bees per hive could spell trouble for almond growers, he said.
He said 2012 was a bad year for bee nutrition.
“Last year was not a good year for honey production in the United States,” Mussen said, “and it could be one of the worst honey production years in the history of nation, although it’s been pretty rough in some of the previous years. Usually when we’re short of nectar, we’re short on pollen, and honey bees need both. So, 2012 was a bad year for bee nutrition.”
The winter of 2012-2013, in general, was bad for bees. In fact, it's never been good since the winter of 2006 with the onset of colony collapse disorder, a mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, brood and food stores.
Bee scientists think CCD is caused by a multitude of factors, includes, pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress. On the average, beekeepers report they're losing one-third of their bees a year.
“We don’t know how many more bees will be lost over the winter,” Mussen told us on Feb. 8. “We consider the winter ending when the weather warms up and the pollen is being brought into the hives.”
“Many, many colonies are not going to make it through the winter. We won’t have as large a bee population as in the past.”
Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976, knows honey bees. He is a honey bee guru, a global expert on bees. "Have a question about bees? Ask Eric Mussen." This month, especially, he is in great demand as a news source.
The New York Times quoted Mussen in its March 28th article, "Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms."
Eric Mussen, an apiculturist at the University of California, Davis, said analysts had documented about 150 chemical residues in pollen and wax gathered from beehives.
"Where do you start?" Dr. Mussen said. "When you have all these chemicals at a sublethal leel how do they react with each other? What are the consequences?"
Experts say nobody knows.
Meanwhile, Mussen spent much of the day today granting news media interviews. On Tuesday, April 2, it will be for Dan Rather Reports: Buzzkill.
It was not so long ago that honey bees drew little attention, despite the fact that they pollinate about one-third of the food we eat. A three-letter acronym, CCD, changed all that.
Rich Schubert, a beekeeper in the Winters/Vacaville area, said it best during a question-and-answer session at Mussen's UC Davis Distinguished Seminar on Oct. 9, 2007.
If 5600 dead cows were found in a pasture, instead of 5600 dead bees, people would start paying attention, Schubert told the crowd.
So true. And now they are.
Honey bee foraging on almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of honey bee on an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Symphony in the almond blossoms...
There's a wild almond tree planted in a field off Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, that's incredibly beautiful.
Honey bees from the nearby apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility reunite on the blossoms, each bee seemingly vying for the best pollen to take back to her hive.
The tree is not quite in full bloom, but don't tell that to the bees. We captured a few images of them in flight, a moving symphony performance in the almonds.
Honey bee heading toward almonds blossoms on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee, packing pollen, in mid-flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A blur of bee wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When you first see the leaffooted bug, you know immediately how it got its name.
The appendages on its feet look like leaves!
This morning we saw one in our catmint (Nepeta) patch. It crawled beneath the tiny leaves, sharing space with honey bees, European wool carder bees, butterflies and assorted spiders.
Tonight scores of them stormed our pomegranate tree. In fact, they made the immature fruit their kitchen, living room and bedroom.
Although the leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus clypealis) is a pest of pistachios and almonds, we've never seen it on our pomegranate tree until today. Our tree, planted in 1927--back when Herbert Hoover was the U.S. president--has few pests. One year white flies attacked it mercilessly. Tonight leaffooted bugs claimed squatters' rights.
The adult bug is about an inch long with a white or yellow zigzag across its back. Shades of Zorro! Its most distinctive feature, however, are the leaflike appendages on its feet.
Back in 2009, integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, co-authored UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines on the leaffooted bug as it pertains to almonds. Zalom and his colleagues called attention to their needlelike mouthparts. The adults feed on young nuts "before the shell hardens." And after the nut is developed, "leaffooted bug feeding can still cause black spots on the kernel or wrinkled, misshapen nutmeats."
As for our pomegranate tree, we're not sure how well these leaffooted bugs can probe the tough, leathery fruit.
We open the pomegranates with a serrated knife...
Close-up of leaffooted bug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Leaffooted bugs making pomegranates their kitchen, living room and bedroom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beady eyes, colorful antennae and appendages on its feet that look like leaves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."--John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra
Ecologist Louie Yang of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, tags that quote at the end of each email.
On that note, did you catch the Feb. 14th National Public Radio piece on "Why California Almonds Need North Dakota Flowers (And a Few Million Bees)?"
"Here's the web of connections: a threat to California's booming almond business; hard times for honey bees in North Dakota; and high corn prices," Dan Charles said.
The gist of it:
Every year, bees from 1.6 million of the nation's hives are trucked into California to pollinate the 750,000 acres of almonds. Since the almond pollination season is brief--a few weeks in mid-February--the bees need someplace to thrive after the bloom ends. Many beekeepers head to North Dakota's federally funded government program, the Conservation Reserve Program, where flowers bloom all summer long. Basically, Uncle Sam leases land from the farmers to help the bees thrive.
Now, however, North Dakota farmers are finding it more profitable to grow corn than put their land in the Conservation Reserve Program.
"The amount of North Dakota land in the Conservation Reserve, meanwhile, has declined by a third over the past five years," said Charles. "This year, it's expected to take another plunge, perhaps down to half what it was its peak."
So, bottom line, California almonds--and the nation's bees--are tied to the North Dakota's Conservation Reserve Program.
As Charles correctly pointed out: "This is not just a beekeeper's problem anymore. ...the prosperity of almond growers...depends on what happens to bees on the lonely northern Plains."
To get a really good grasp of the situation, read Hannah Nordhaus' excellent book, "The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America."
NPR interviewed some of the very migratory beekeepers that Nordhaus interviewed.
Honey bee heading for an almond blossom on Bee Biology Road at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging in almond blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
At last, the Laidlaw almonds are in bloom.
That would be the almond trees on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis.
And no one appreciates this more than the bees holed up in the 40 hives behind the facility. The bees are getting ready for the big spring build-up, and what's a spring build-up without almonds?
The bees are hungry. Very hungry. If you take a photo of the almond blooms, you'll see how hungry they are. Sometimes you get five bees in one photo.
So, it was with great interest that we read a news story in today's Business Journal, Fresno, that was headlined "New Almond Promises Independence from Bees."
Independence, you ask? Are bees declaring their independence from almonds? No. The piece in The Business Journal concerned the "Independence almond." Wrote reporter Chuck Harvey in the lede: "The Independence almond — a self-fertile variety needing few bees to produce numerous large nuts — is creating a buzz among almond growers."
"Created by Zaiger Genetics Inc., the Independence almond was released in 2008. Dave Wilson Nursery, which holds the patent on the trees, has a producing Independence almond orchard in Modesto."
Basically, it's an early-blooming, self-fertile almond described in the news story as "a large high-grade commercial quality almond with a soft shell," according to the CEO of Dave Wilson Nursery. And it "blanches well."
You'll want to read more about it, and what the Almond Board of California, beekeepers, and growers have to say about it.
One thing's for sure: we need stronger, healthier bees, or we'll all in trouble.
Honey bees foraging in almonds on the grounds of the Laidlaw facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Five bees foraging on the almonds on the Laidlaw facility grounds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)