California Ag News: Eric Mussen to Retire

California Ag News: Eric Mussen to Retire

January 2, 2014

Eric Mussen: A Smokin’ Career at UC Davis
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology who will be retiring at the end of June, has seen and used many a smoker during his 38-year career.

Eric Mussen will be retiring in June 2014
Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey

But this one is different.

In honor of his service, the California State Beekeepers’ Association recently presented him with a plaque decorated with a smoker “for 38 years of work and support.”

Throughout his career, Mussen has offered advice to scores of people and figuratively put out many a fire involving beekeeping and pollination issues.

A smoker, a device that beekeepers use to calm honey bees so they can open their hives, masks the smell of the alarm pheromones released by guard bees. It also prompts the bees to gorge on honey.

Considered by his peers as one of the most respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation, Mussen presented a slide show of some of the highlights of his career during his two-hour presentation on “The Most Interesting Time in Beekeeping.”

“I got carried away,” Mussen said later.  “I was nearly at the end of the second hour when I was asked to wrap up my 45-minute presentation.  Many listeners said that they still hope to hear the ‘more current’ portion that had to be omitted.”

Mussen has given presentations to CSBA since joining the UC Davis faculty in 1976. He is also the organization’s apiculturist and parliamentarian and served as a delegate to the American Beekeeping Federation.

A native of Schenectady, N.Y., Mussen received his bachelor’s degree in entomology from the University of Massachusetts (after turning down an offer to play football at Harvard) and then received his master’s degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota in 1969 and 1975, respectively.

His doctoral research focused on the epidemiology of a viral disease of larval honey bees, sacbrood virus. 

Mussen continues to tackle many new challenges regarding honey bee health and pollination concerns, including mites, diseases, pesticides, malnutrition, stress, Africanized honey bees and the successful pollination of California’s almond acreage. 

Mussen educates the beekeeping industry and general public with his bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, which he launched in 1976. Since 1976, he has also written Bee Briefs, addressing such issues as diseases, pesticides and swarms.

The recipient of numerous state and national awards, Mussen is a worldwide authority on honey bees, said Jackie Park-Burris, a commercial queen breeder in Butte County and a past president of the California State Apiary Board.

Mussen is known for devoting his research and extension activities toward the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices. He helps growers, consumers, UC Farm Advisors, agricultural commissioners, scientists, beekeepers, researchers, pesticide regulators, 4-H’ers, and state and national agricultural and apicultural organizations, among others.

"I am basically all pro-bee,” Mussen told the American Bee Journal in a two-part feature story published in the September of 2011. “Whatever I can do for bees, I do it...It doesn’t matter whether there is one hive in the backyard or 15,000 colonies. Bees are bees and the bees’ needs are the bees’ needs.”

Recruitment is underway for his successor, who will begin as an Extension assistant apiculturist.