UC Davis Student Maureen Page Speaks for the Bees

Maureen Page to Spread Flowers for Bees

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Maureen Page pollination
Maureen Page

California Ag Today recently spoke with doctoral student Maureen Page of the Neal William’s lab at UC Davis, Department of Entomology and Nematology. She is the recipient of a prestigious three-year fellowship for promoting food security by optimizing wildflower planting. She supports the wild and bee management. We asked her about the flowers that she plans on planting to help those bees.

“I do believe that in general, flowers are really important for bees. Planting flowers are generally good for them,” she said.

Although planting is good for the bees, there are some precautions that need to be made.

“Some flowers can be somewhat toxic to bees. Some do not actually provide bees with pollen and nectar resources,” Page said.

There are many ornamental plants that are bred to not have much pollen so that people do not sneeze as much.

“On top of that, if you are planting non-native species that are really weedy, it may be great for the bees, but might not be great for other plant species,” Page said.

UC Davis Pollination Ecologist Wins 3-Year Fellowship

Fellowship Comes From the Department of Defense

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Maureen Page Awarded Fellowship to Optimize Wildflower Plantings

Doctoral student Maureen Page of the Neal Williams lab at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is the recipient of a prestigious three-year fellowship, a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship for her research proposal: Promoting Food Security by Optimizing Wildflower Plantings to Support Wild and Managed Bees.

Page, a pollination ecologists, was one of 69 awardees selected from more than 3,600 applicants. The Department of Defense funds her fellowship.

“Most people probably are aware that both managed honeybees and many of the wild native species that we have in California as well as in the U.S. have major stressors that are contributing to declines in their populations,” Page said.

And of course, the bee populations suffer when there’s a lack of floral resources to pollinate. “Especially when crops are not in bloom and bees need pollen and nectar to survive. And so without enough resources, it can have dramatic declines in bee populations,” she said.

Page explained that bees are critically important to our food supply. “It’s estimated that about a third of the food supply directly benefits from insect pollination. Many of those crops are entirely dependent on insect pollination,” she said. “Without bees and other insects, those particular crops wouldn’t even be able to set fruit and many others, which while not wholly dependent on insect pollination benefit very much from insect pollination, which means more production and lower prices so that more people can afford healthy, nutritious food.”

Billy Synk Manages Seeds for Bees Program

Cover Crops and Bee Health

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Billy Synk, director of pollination programs with project Apis m (the genus/species of European honey bee). We asked him about bees and the importance of cover crops in relation to bee health, and orchard soil health.

Early this year was difficult year with the lack of rain.

“Those almond growers that were on drip did not really have great cover crop stands,” he said.

The project Apis m mustard mix  is a combination of canola, musters, and daikon radish that will bloom before the almonds and give the bees a boost of nutrition energy before the almond bloom starts.

“All these colonies from everywhere in America that are at their hungriest or at the weakest are placed in almond orchards, and they’ve got their most important job to do: that’s pollinate almonds,” Synk explained.

These cover crops are important to get bees stimulated before almond bloom.

“If you can get them stimulated before the almonds bloom, they are going to have a lot more vigor and vitality and really attack those blooms when it is time,” Synk said.

The bees go after the almond blossoms in what is called a positive feedback loop.

“They are looking for signs of spring, day length, and temperature, but they’re also looking for the very first fresh pollen to come in that year,” Synk said.

Bees will lay more eggs inside their hive when the new pollen comes.

“That brood has a pheromone that cues the bees to  leave the hive to harvest more pollen to support more bees, and the whole cycle continues,” Synk explained.

Armyworms Invade Rice

Luis Espino: Armyworms Invade Rice

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

Armyworm Larvae
Larva of the armyworm, Mythimna unipuncta.
Photo by Jack Kelly Clark, UC IPM.

Farmers face many threats to their crops on a daily basis. Luis Espino, rice farm advisor UC ANR Cooperative Extension, Colusa County, said rice farmers are on the lookout for two caterpillar infestations during the year when armyworms invade rice fields. “The first one occurs sometime in June,” Espino said. “At that time all they do is just eat the foliage, and you can usually see it when you walk into a field. Nevertheless, the rice has a very good capacity to recover from that type of injury.” Espino’s UC Rice Blog explains it is difficult to accurately estimate yield losses due to early armyworm damage because it can reduce tillering, delay the crop, and cause uneven maturity.

“Heading” occurs when the rice plant prepares to enter its reproductive phase. The first sign, called the ‘booting’ stage, is when the leaf stem that conceals the developing panicle bulges. Then the tip of the developing panicle emerges from the stem and continues to grow. Rice is said to be at the ‘heading’ stage when the panicle is fully visible. Flowering begins a day after heading has completed. As the flowers open they shed their pollen on each other so that pollination can occur. Flowering can continue for about 7 days.  (Source: Rice Development, Ricepedia.) 

“The second infestation usually occurs in mid- to late-August when the rice is heading out,” Espino said. “At that time, armyworms can feed on the panicles, [causing the kernels to dry before filling], resulting in blanks [without kernels to harvest] on the panicles and broken panicle branches. That’s when armyworms are more important.”

Espino said that the first infestation this year was relatively large, making it harder for the treatments to control the armyworms as they devastated the rice fields. “There were some areas in fields where the rice was down to the waters,” Espino said. “so all the foliage was consumed, and sometimes only a little stem was left standing.”

During the second armyworm infestation, however, Espino said the rice fields were not as badly affected as they had been in the first attack. “We did see some fields with armyworm injury,” Espino said,“ and some farmers had to treat their fields. The numbers were just so big that the treatments were not controlling them.”

 

Resources:  

USDA to provide $4 million for honey bee habitat

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees.

“The future of America’s food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations,” Vilsack said. “Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area.”

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops is pollinated by honey bees, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing the effort on five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. This announcement renews and expands a successful $3 million pilot investment that was announced earlier this year and continues to have high levels of interest.

From June to September, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

The assistance announced will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, and providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators.

This year, several NRCS state offices are setting aside additional funds for similar efforts, including California – where more than half of all managed honey bees in the U.S. help pollinate almond groves and other agricultural lands – as well as Ohio and Florida.

 

USDA Funds $3 Million to Improve Bee Health

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide close to $3 million in technical and financial assistance for interested farmers and ranchers to help improve the health of bees, which play an important role in crop production, particularly in California.

The funding is a focused investment to improve pollinator health and will be targeted in five Midwestern states, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, where California farmers procure their bees.

USDA reports that Honey bee pollination supports an estimated $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a nutritious diet.

California’s 800,000 acres of almond orchards typically require 1.8 million domesticated bee colonies, just to pollinate its almond trees alone.

The future security of America’s food supply depends on healthy honey bees,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Expanded support for research, combined with USDA’s other efforts to improve honey bee health, should help America’s beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honey bee hives each year.”

Funding will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to promote conservation practices that will provide honey bees with nutritious pollen and nectar while providing benefits to the environment. Recent studies have shown that beekeepers are losing approximately 30 percent of their honey bee colonies each year, up from historical norms of ten to fifteen percent overwintering losses experienced prior to 2006.

This assistance will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators, as well as habitat for other wildlife.

Midwestern states were chosen because from June to September the region is the resting ground for over 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

Applications are due March 21, 2014.