About Elizabeth Frost

As a seasonal Field and Lab Technician I work within the California Tech Transfer Team from September through May serving Northern California queen breeders. From June through August I work within the Midwest Tech Transfer Team serving both migratory beekeepers and queen breeders in Minnesota and North Dakota. Services I provide include hive inspection, sampling for Varroa and Nosema, testing breeder queen colonies for hygienic behavior, and assisting in collaborative breeding efforts utilizing instrumental insemination. I received my Bachelor of Arts Degree in 2008 from the University of California, Davis with majors in English and Italian and a minor in Entomology. Prior to joining the Tech Transfer Teams within the Bee Informed Partnership I was a Field and Lab Technician at the Harry Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility from 2008 to 2012 under the direction of Susan Cobey at the University of California, Davis. I am based out of University of California Cooperative Extension, Butte County in Oroville, CA and University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.

Spotlight on Buckwheat

Fagopyrum esculentum flowers, buds, leaf. Research field, UMN St. Paul Campus.

Fagopyrum esculentum flowers, buds, leaf. Research field, UMN St. Paul Campus.

Brought to America in the 1600s by Dutch settlers, buckwheat is on the mind of the average American only when its name is followed by the word pancakes. The plant, Fagopyrum esculentum, was domesticated in Asia some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago and spread in cultivation across Europe. In the U.S. buckwheat was historically grown in highest acreage in Pennsylvania and New York. The greatest acreage has now shifted to the north-central states, hence the relevance for buckwheat field research trials on the University of Minnesota, St. Paul Campus.

View from Buckwheat research field. UMN St. Paul Campus.

View from Buckwheat research field. UMN St. Paul Campus.

Fagopyrum esculentum follows the forb/herb growth pattern, meaning it is a vascular plant with little woody tissue aboveground. It belongs to the Polygonaceae or buckwheat family. Also within this family is the California buckwheat, though of a different species, which I became familiar with when sampling hives for the 2012 National Honey Bee Disease Survey in Southern California.

Fagopyrum esculentum in bloom. Research field, UMN St. Paul Campus.

Fagopyrum esculentum in bloom. Research field, UMN St. Paul Campus.

As for its value as a crop, buckwheat has the benefit of being productive late in the season allowing farmers in states with appropriate soil and weather conditions to utilize it as a double-crop. According to the Northeast Buckwheat Growers and Cornell University, the crop may even be suitable to plant in high-fertility fields when a wet spring delays corn and soybean planting to the point that late planting of these commodity crops may prove uneconomical to the farmer. 2013 definitely yielded a wet spring in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Fagopyrum esculentum leaf close-up. Research field, UMN St. Paul Campus.

Fagopyrum esculentum leaf close-up. Research field, UMN St. Paul Campus.

Buckwheat serves subsequent crops by making phosphorus available in the soil and by acting as a smother crop to discourage weed growth without herbicides. According to University of Missouri Extension, “buckwheat has few reported pests, perhaps because the crop is not extensively grown [...] Overall, pests are unlikely to cause any significant loss in a buckwheat field.” What more could a farmer ask for?

Pollen forager on Fagopyrum esculentum. Research field, UMN St. Paul Campus.

Pollen forager on Fagopyrum esculentum. Research field, UMN St. Paul Campus.

She could ask for her favorite beekeeper to set a load of hives next to the crop that’s what! Buckwheat can supply a steady source of pollen and nectar in late summer up until harvest or frost under optimal conditions. The National Honey Board describes buckwheat honey as “dark and full-bodied” and as “contain[ing] more antioxidant compounds than some lighter honeys.” Descriptors that come to mind for me are complex, tangy, and reminiscent of Tootsie Rolls. Whether one loves buckwheat honey or hates it, there’s no doubt it can be a good option for the farmer and a great resource for the beekeeper.

Colony plugged with buckwheat honey. August 2012, Dunn Co., ND.

Colony plugged with buckwheat honey. Katie Lee looks on. August 2012, Dunn Co., ND.

To help increase acreage of my favorite pseudocereal I urge you to wield your consumer power and try one of these 442 recipes using buckwheat next time you plan a meal. Who knows maybe your next breakfast will include a steaming bowl of buckwheat groats! More information on buckwheat can be found at the following websites:

United States Department of Agriculture

University of Cornell, College of Ag and Life Sciences

University of Missouri, Extension

Purdue University, Horticulture

 Tastespotting.com

Largest Mass Bumble Bee Death on Record

On the eve of National Pollinator Week the largest mass bumble bee death on record occurred in a Wilsonville, Oregon parking lot. The estimated 50,000 bumble bees found dead in the Target lot had foraged on some fifty-five ornamental linden trees, confirmed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture to have been sprayed with the insecticide dinotefuran, trade name Safari. According to an article from Oregon Public Broadcasting, “The chemical application was intended to kill aphids because they produce a honeydew substance that drops from the trees onto parked cars.” This incident is an example of insecticide misapplication with devastating consequences.

A broad-spectrum insecticide, dinotefuran is in the neonicotinoid chemical class. The supplemental label for Safari in particular lists the many different types of application, from foliar and broadcast sprays to soil application and trunk sprays in trees and large shrubs. Regarding application to ornamental plants and forestry, the supplemental label states that “for trees in forests that are pollinated by bees or other invertebrates, make applications post-bloom.” The Material Safety Data Sheet for Safari states that “Dinotefuran Technical is highly toxic to bees.” In the wake of this bumble bee kill, I feel compelled to revisit Rachel Carson’s influential book Silent Spring. First published in 1962, this book raised public awareness of the widespread usage of pesticides with prolonged breakdown times, DDT(dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) in particular, and the resultant harmful effects on the natural world. In the second chapter, entitled “The Obligation to Endure,” Carson writes:

 

Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species – man – acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world. During the past quarter century this power has not only increased to one of disturbing magnitude but it has changed in character. The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world – the very nature of its life.

Carson’s thorough research of and passion for her subjects as well as a succinct and accessible writing style resulted in a New York Times best-seller that acted as a catalyst for the federal ban of DDT in 1972. I focus on this excerpt to provide a reminder that chemical applications can have irreversible consequences, not to equate dinotefuran with DDT. Dinotefuran is by no means as persistent in the environment as DDT which has a half-life of up to 15 years or more according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA dinotefuran has a half-life at minimum of 1.8 days and at maximum 50-100 days. The lethality of dinotefuran is clear, however, from its misapplication on ornamental lindens in Wilsonville, Oregon that resulted in the loss of 50,000 bumble bees and in turn an estimated 300 or more wild bumble bee colonies.

Now is the time to reevaluate our need for insect control on ornamentals. The devastation to the wild bumble bee populations around Wilsonville, Oregon is not soon to be recovered and will result in an untold decrease in wildflower seed-set which in turn feeds birds and small mammals. I would bet, however that the 2014 aphid population on those lindens will be robust, considering their capacity to reproduce asexually. To learn more about the incident and what you can do to help, please visit the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The linked article, “Scientists Call for an End to Cosmetic Insecticide Use After the Largest Bumble Bee Poisoning on Record,” http://www.xerces.org/2013/06/27/scientists-call-for-an-end-to-cosmetic-insecticide-use-after-the-largest-bumble-bee-poisoning-on-record/, provides the latest facts on the bumble bee kill as well as recommendations from the Xerces Society for municipalities, homeowners, nursery and hardware stores, and the federal government that, if followed, could aid in the prevention of further bee deaths as a result of foraging visits to insecticide-treated ornamentals. Here’s a quick look at the Xerces Society recommendations for homeowners:

For homeowners

  • Do not buy products that contain neonicotinoids. A list of products can be found at www.xerces.org/pesticides
  • Check to see if you have these products in your garage or garden shed. If so, do not use them. Make sure you dispose of them properly or take them back to the store where you bought them.
  • When buying plants for your yard, ask if neonicotinoids have been used on them. If staff cannot tell you, shop somewhere else.

Blog Citations:

  • Carson, R. (2002). Silent Spring. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002. Google Books. Web. 30 June 2013. http://books.google.com
  • Staff, FOX 12. “Pesticide banned following 50,000 bee deaths.” Kptv.com. Kptv.com. 27 June 2013. Web. 30 June 2013. www.kptv.com
  • The Xerces Society. “Pesticide Causes Largest Mass Bumble Bee Death on Record.” Xerces.org. Xerces.org. 21 June, 2013. Web. 30 June 2013. xerces.org

 

Flora at Joshua Tree National Park

Cylindropuntia echinocarpa, Wiggins' cholla. Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Cylindropuntia echinocarpa, Wiggins’ cholla. Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Some of my favorite memories of the great outdoors in 2012 include sunny days spent in Joshua Tree National Park last November. Having never been, I was amazed at the diversity of plants to be seen. Situated in both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, the park has a multitude of cacti and shrubs as well as some junipers and oaks at higher elevations. The desert shrubs have really grown on me as, in addition to their varied appearances and the stunning habitats in which they are found, they also have excellent names. For example, Ocotillo, the common name for Fouquieria splendens, just rolls off the tongue. Even, Yucca brevifolia, Joshua Tree National Park’s namesake has a growth pattern that is tree-like at times and shrub-like at others.

Yucca brevifolia, Joshua tree. Twentynine Palms Highway, CA.

Yucca brevifolia, Joshua tree. Twentynine Palms Highway, CA.

While many photographers flock to the deserts in the springtime to catch the fleeting wildlfower bloom, flowering shrubs can be found in the desert even in mid-November. I found two such plants on my hike to 49 Palms Oasis. In a wash at the start of the trail I startled a bunch of Gambel’s quail while trying to get to some tall shrubs I mistook to be a type of sage, based on the gray-green leaves and reminiscent flower shape. Honey bees foraged for nectar toward the top of the plants as well as many small butterflies. After some internet searching I determined that it wasn’t a sage at all, but Hyptis emoryi, commonly called desert lavender.This shrub is native to the Southwest and belongs to the Mint Family, Lamiaceae. According to the Jepson Horticultural Database, desert lavender can reach up to 3 meters in height, is found in southeastern California as well as Arizona and northwest New Mexico, and has a flowering time of January through May. Why then did I see honey bees and butterflies visiting this shrub mid-November when most of the flowers were going to seed? Wikipedia notes that desert lavender is an aromatic attractor. It is likely that this particular location in the wash provided the right conditions to extend bloom time and that the flowers continued to attract pollinators even after peak bloom.

Hyptis emoryi, desert lavender. Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Hyptis emoryi, desert lavender. Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second flowering plant I found at the end of 49 Palms Oasis Trail at the oasis itself. Epilobium canum, commonly called California fuchsia or hummingbird trumpet, blooms from June to December in Joshua Tree and has the growth pattern of a subshrub. This native subshrub belongs to the Onagraceae, the Evening Primrose family, and is found throughout the western states with the exception of Washington and Montana. According to the Jepson eFlora Glossary, a subshrub is a “plant with the proximal above-ground stems woody, the distal stems and twigs not woody (or less so) and dying back seasonally,” whereas a shrub is a “woody plant of relatively short maximum height, with generally many branches from the base.” See the difference?

Epilobium canum, hummingbird trumpet. Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Epilobium canum, hummingbird trumpet. Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Further confusing the definition of shrub is the fact that within the Cactaceae family, many species are classified as shrubs with the additional distinction of being stem succulents. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I’ve only scratched the surface of plant identification. I’ll leave you with one last picture of a shrub (stem succulent) lifeform, the California barrel cactus, Ferocactus cylindraceus. Here’s to continuing education in 2013!

Ferocactus cylindraceus, California barrel cactus. Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Ferocactus cylindraceus, California barrel cactus. Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

 

 

 

National Survey for Honey Bee Pests and Diseases in California

This Fall I had the opportunity to conduct the National Survey for Honey Bee Pests and Diseases with Katie Lee in Southern California. The main goal of this survey is to confirm the absence, or presence, of pests and diseases that are exotic, or not introduced at present, to honey bees in the United States. Exotic threats that are of the greatest concern to beekeeping in the U.S. are Apis cerana, Slow Paralysis Virus and the parasitic mites of the Genus Tropilaelaps which includes four known species, Tropilaelaps clareae, T. koenigerum, T. thaii and T. mercedesae. For more information on Tropilaelaps spp. and their life-cycle refer to Jennie Stitzinger’s Tropilaelaps Mites blog.

Sampling kit: Live bee shipping box with queen candy and water supply, bottle for adult bees sampled in alcohol, cup for larval stages samples in alcohol.

Over the course of a week, Katie and I visited eleven beekeepers in Riverside and San Diego Counties. Each beekeeper provided us with one bee yard from which we sampled eight hives. From each hive we collected a sample of live bees, pollen, bees in alcohol, and larval stages in alcohol. The live bee sample is used for virus testing. The bees in alcohol, once processed, yield a rough estimate of Varroa and Nosema levels for the bee yard sampled. The larval sample, which is collected by knocking a frame with open brood over a collection pan, allows Research Technicians at the University of Maryland to check for exotic mites that may have been knocked off the frame. The pollen sample will undergo pesticide analysis. Take a look at the 2011-2012 National Honey Bee Pests and Diseases Survey Report for a look at the evolution of this survey from its inception in 2009 to the present. The scope of this survey is impressive as it is currently conducted in thirty-four states providing a look at pest and disease levels from Hawaii to New Hampshire.

As I had never been involved in the National Honey Bee Pests and Diseases Survey, NHBS for short, I was excited at the prospect of learning how the survey is conducted and being a part of such a wide-ranging pest and disease survey. Another plus was that I got a snapshot of beekeeping in Southern California. To follow are a few fun facts that I learned while conducting the survey. Avocado orchards are sought-after overwintering locations as some trees bloom during winter months providing a source of nectar and pollen when it would otherwise be scarce. In the summer months many Southern California beekeepers take their bees to alfalfa fields in Imperial County. Located in the southeast corner of the state this county can reach temperatures above 110 °F in July and August. My favorite new discovery, however, is a native wildflower honey from Eriogonum fasciculatum, commonly called California Buckwheat. It’s amber in color, one might say complex in flavor and has a kick at the end that is very tasty. In regards to taste it might be my new favorite, after Starthistle of course! After all this talk of exotic threats I’ll end with a look at my new favorite native plant found in San Diego County.

Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat, Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad, California.

Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat, Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad, California.

 

 

 

Halloween and the Honey Bee

E. Frost, bee suit prototype. Logan County, ND.

E. Frost. Logan County, ND.

Halloween is coming up ladies and that means you need to pick a costume and fast. For you bee enthusiasts out there it may be difficult to waver from variations on the cute honey bee costume popularized by the “Bee Girl” in Blind Melon’s 1993 video for “No Rain.” This year however I challenge you to forgo the stereotypically fanciful costume and go for realism. For example, one could simply wear their bee suit. If you live in a Northern climate it’s the practical way to go as it will keep you warm all night. Another benefit is that with a myriad of pockets you can fill them with candy and never be in need of a snack. Should you live in a warmer clime, your bee veil can also serve to keep those pesky mosquitos away. And last but not least if you’re adventurous enough to spend the night out on the town you can always carry your hive tool with you for personal protection.

Bee Informed Pumpkin

Should you insist on showing some skin, have no fear, I have a costume for you as well. Why not don a bee bikini, also known as a beekini. This costume allows a woman the freedom to show off her assets without any danger of getting hit on as no one will want to come near you. The downside of this, however, is that no one will buy you a drink either, making this a perfect costume for the designated driver. Of course this costume is a logistical nightmare, where to don one’s beekini, how long to wear it and at what time will the carriage turn back into a pumpkin? Halloween is all about nightmares though, so I had to suggest it even in jest. Have a safe, fun Halloween and choose wisely!

E. Frost. University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.

Spotlight on Rabbitbrush

Sources of fall forage are ever important as we head into winter in California. With a bloom period ranging from August through October, rabbitbrush is one such source that provides both nectar and pollen. There are many species of rabbitbrush which range from British Columbia in the North to New Mexico in the South, California in the West to Nebraska in the East. Of these species of Chrysothamnus I will focus on one, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus. Commonly known as yellow or sometimes green rabbitbrush, this plant is a member of the family Asteraceae. In California, C. viscidiflorus ranges from the Cascade and Klamath Ranges in the north to the desert mountains of Riverside County in the south and can be found from 2,900 to 13,123 feet elevation. C. viscidiflorus is found almost exclusively in the eastern half of the state within pinyon-juniper woodlands and sagebrush lands. At this time of year Lassen Volcanic National Park is a great location to spot stands of rabbitbrush along Highway 89.

Honey bee foraging pollen from rabbitbrush.

Honey bee foraging pollen from rabbitbrush in Lassen Volcanic Nat’l Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chrysothamnus, literally meaning “golden shrub” in Greek, is aptly named. The vibrant yellow blooms are attractive to a multitude of native pollinators in addition to the honey bee. C. viscidiflorus is a shrub that can reach three feet at maturity. It is highly drought-tolerant and adapted to medium to coarse soil types and full-sun conditions. These characteristics make it an attractive plant for water-conscious landscaping in the West. In addition to its nutritional value to pollinators and value as a drought-tolerant ornamental, C. viscidiflorus also has a history of ethnobotanical uses ranging from toothache relief to the recreational chewing of roots as gum. For a list of National Parks where rabbitbrush can be found, look up Chrysothamnus species in the CRC Ethnobotany Desk Reference by Timothy Johnson available online.

Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus sp.

Rabbitbrush in full bloom.

Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus sp.

Rabbitbrush pre-bloom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus sp., going to seed

Rabbitbrush going to seed.

Spotlight on Valley Oak

Oak apple. Valley Oak, Q.lobata. Butte County, California.

As we enter the final week of summer it seems fitting to talk about Quercus lobata Née, the Valley Oak. This tree is a late summer source of bee forage in Northern California where forage is scarce going into the fall. Valley oaks are endemic to California and are found in the interior valleys and foothills. At this time of year one can hear honey bees buzzing high up in the canopy. They’re not visiting flowers, but “oak apples,” a type of gall induced by the oak gall wasp Andricus quercuscalifornicus. What the bees are after is the honeydew the gall secretes.

The tiny wasp responsible for inducing these galls lays her eggs in plant tissue on the stems of Valley Oaks. The emerging larvae stimulates the growth of a gall which acts as a nutrient sink providing the growing wasp with the food it needs throughout its development. As a result of nectar secretion, the gall attracts bees, ants, flies and beetles. When these insects feed on the honeydew they discourage parasitoid wasps from disturbing the developing A.quercuscalifornicus wasp within the gall.

Oak apple showing point of emergence of gall wasp adult.

While the physical act of honey bees feeding on Valley Oak galls is beneficial to the gall wasp, honeydew foraging may not be all that great for the hive that is receiving the crop. Honeydew honey can cause dysentery in honey bees that are overwintered on it as a result of high levels of minerals and indigestible sugars. While honeydews from other plant sources are produced in spring and summer, the negative effects are not generally seen within the hive. The diversity of forage being brought in during these seasons likely offsets any indigestion resulting from the honeydew being collected.

Gall dissection.

One last fun fact about the Valley Oak is that the species Q.lobata boasts the largest oaks in the United States. The tallest Valley Oak can be found standing 140 feet tall in Covelo, California in Mendocino County. Also, as a new resident of Chico, California it was fun for me to discover that Bidwell Park was home to the largest Valley Oak, known as the Hooker Oak, until it fell in 1977 at 325 years of age.

View of old larval chamber within gall.

For more information on gall wasp and Quercus species’ interactions check out K.N. Schick’s article “Cynipid-Induced Galls and California Oaks” in Fremontia: A Journal of the California Native Plant Society, Volume 30, Nos. 3-4, July/October 2002. The web address is: http://www.cnps.org/cnps/publications/fremontia/Fremontia_Vol30-No3and4.pdf

Spotlight on Gum Plant

G.squarrosa. Stutsman Co., ND. Notice thistle seeds stuck to flower heads.

North Dakota landscapes, both farmed and fallow, are golden-hued with the onset of sunflower, goldenrod and gum plant bloom. These three plants belong to the family Asteraceae, commonly called the Aster or Sunflower Family. While sunflower and goldenrod are well-known late summer sources of forage, gum plant also provides a source of nectar and pollen for bees. Native to North America, Grindelia species occur throughout the lower forty-eight with the exception of the southeastern states. Grindelia squarrosa, or curlycup gum plant, occurs in Great Plains rangeland and is the most wide-ranging species in the genus Grindelia. G.squarrosa is a biennial or short-term perennial with peak bloom occuring in August and flowering continuing into September.

Gum plant has several common names, including resinweed, tarweed, stickyheads and curlytop gum plant. Regardless of one’s preferred nomenclature, a gum plant by any other name would smell as resinous. The plant is often described as having a balsamic odor. In this case a review of Merriam-Webster’s definition of balsam, “one relating to an aromatic and usually oily and resinous substance flowing from various plants,” is helpful. Grindelia is easy to recognize by its characteristic odor and sticky flower heads. While drought tolerant curlytop gum plant provides bee forage during the dog days of summer, it is not a favorite honey plant as the crop yielded is of a low grade and crystallizes readily. In American Honey Plants, Frank C. Pellet writes, “The honey is yellow and of inferior flavor. It is often mixed with light honey in the super and the grade spoiled as a result.” In regards to G.squarrosa nectar and crystallization, Pellet writes, “[…] Colorado beekeepers say that the bees have to hurry home with the load to prevent it becoming candied in their sacs.” Despite potentially negative aspects of Grindelia honey, the late season pollen the plant provides is a nutritional bonus.

One last item of interest regarding Grindelia, though unrelated to honey bees, is its long history of medicinal use by American Indians which range from the treatment of dermatitis to whooping cough. A list of medicinal uses of Grindelia can be found in CRC Ethnobotany Desk Reference by Timothy Johnson. I’ll have to try out a decoction of Grindelia camporum, a native Californian species, if I ever have a reaction to poison oak when I return to Northern California!

Cultivated sunflower field. Stutsman Co., North Dakota.

It’s Raining Frass!

In early June I experienced an outbreak of forest tent caterpillars (FTC), Malacosoma disstria, while sampling at an apiary in west-central Minnesota. Not only were the hive lids covered with frass, the technical term for insect feces, but the caterpillars themselves were falling on both the lids and my shoulders as I worked. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, FTC has been in the outbreak stage in west-central counties of Minnesota for several years, potentially numbering from one to four million caterpillars per acre. In between outbreaks FTC can be nearly undetectable. The larval caterpillars emerge from over-wintered egg masses around mid-May and feed up to the end of June on the leaves of aspen, birch, basswood and oaks, among other hardwoods and shrubs. Although FTC can defoliate thousands of acres of hardwoods the trees mainly suffer from reduced growth, unless other stressors such as a long drought or secondary pest damage come into play. In fact the main complaint seems to be that at outbreak levels FTC is simply a nuisance, falling on recreationists, congregating on the sides of buildings and feeding on ornamentals.

Forest tent caterpillar on hive lid.

FTC outbreaks always work themselves out, however, with up to 95% dying of starvation, a classic outcome of a species exceeding the carrying capacity of its habitat. As FTC is native to North America the caterpillars have evolved with native predators and parasites. With outbreak levels of FTC come high numbers of Sarcophaga aldrichi, commonly known as the friendly fly. As FTC outbreaks are kept in check by the natural controls of habitat limitation, parasites and predators, the Minnesota DNR does not recommend insecticide treatments. Having just learned of the spread of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer to the south-easternmost counties in Minnesota, it is refreshing to have witnessed a part of the life cycle of a native insect that, while it can reach outbreak levels, can be suppressed by natural control systems. For more information on the forest tent caterpillar visit: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/treecare/forest_health/ftc/index.html

 

The Midwest at its Best

Statue at the National Buffalo Museum. Jamestown, North Dakota.Not many Californians would jump at the opportunity to spend their summer in Minnesota and North Dakota, but not many Californians work with bees either. I was glad to be given the opportunity to work with Katie Lee in the Bee Informed Partnership and pack my bags and relocate to St. Paul at the beginning of June. For the past four years I’ve worked with Sue Cobey at UC Davis, learning how to keep bees and raise queens, working my way up to a full time position taking care of the research hives and lab facilities at the Harry Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility. My time at UC Davis has been invaluable as I was given the chance to become proficient at instrumental insemination of queen bees which in turn allowed me to aid Sue in her collaborative breeding work with California queen breeders. I am excited to be able to continue working with commercial beekeepers in Minnesota and North Dakota this summer, sampling their colonies in the hopes that the resulting data is useful for their breeding programs and for reducing overwinter colony losses. In addition to being a functional member of the Bee Informed Partnership I am also excited to put names to places as Katie and I travel around to different beekeeping operations. My strongest memory of the Midwest prior to this trip is of a half-time show at South Dakota State University’s Hobo Days homecoming game during which a monkey dressed like a cowboy rode on the back of a dog across the football field. That was something. And yes SDSU beat UC Davis handily. I’m looking forward to working with beekeepers here, experiencing the Midwest at its best and then high-tailing it back to the mild California winter to join Mike and Rob on the Bee Tech Team there. Here’s to a productive summer everyone!