UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab - The Buzz, Volume 5, July 2015
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The President Cares About Bees!
National Strategy to Promote the Health
of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators
In June of last year, President Obama issued the presidential memorandum "Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators" and established a task force which was directed to develop a strategy to satisfy three goals:
  1. Reduce honey bee colony losses (overwintering mortality) to no more than 15% within the next 10 years. The current overwintering losses average around 30% of colony population, peaking some years as high as 40%.
  2. Increase the Eastern population of monarch butterflies to 225 million (four times the current population) occupying the overwintering grounds of approximately 15 acres by 2020.
  3. Restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next 5 years.
On May 19, 2015, the White House released the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators [pdf], a sixty-four paged document outlining the current and planned federal actions to support and foster research to expand the scientific knowledge about the factors that impact pollinators. Some of the best parts about this document, and the accompanying ninety-two page Pollinator Research Action Plan [pdf], is the commitment to public outreach and education and expanding all aspects of bee research. Here at the Bee Lab, those are some of our favorite things!

Some of the planned public outreach and education opportunities might be occurring in your community! They aim to connect more schools, especially those who have received the Green Ribbon Award for exemplary environmental practices, to pollinator resources and design challenges, awards and grants for schools. They will also work through after school programs like 4-H, Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC), and the US Forest Service. Another key day of outreach, is National Public Lands Day, which occurs on September 26th, 2015. It is the nation's largest single day volunteer event for public lands. Stay tuned as the date gets closer, so we can connected you to local pollinator-themed efforts on NPLD!

Though native bees aren't a primary focus, they are featured several times; the document acknowledges that un-managed native pollinators (not just native bees, but flies, wasps, butterflies, and birds!), are the least understood group. There is a call for more sophisticated taxonomic and genetic identification and a better understanding of the pollinator-plant relationships that occur in specific areas and ecosystems. We want to know how native and non-native pollinators interact with each other, their environments, the crops, and any stessors (such as pesticides and pathogens). Embedded in this holistic approach is a need for more nuanced modeling and monitoring techniques, which closely aligns with some of the work that our new PhD student, Laura Ward,  is starting this summer (see article below).

Furthermore, the action plan acknowledges that there is a need for more data concerning the sublethal effects that agro-chemicals and pesticides might incur on pollinators: this includes behavioral changes, reproductive success, and offspring health. With this research data, federal agencies can make more informed, refined recommendations when evaluating new agro-chemicals. The fact that a new product doesn't kill pollinators outright (when the usage directions are followed), is not sufficient to determine the product's safety. 

All in all, the Strategy is a comprehensive look on the state of knowledge about pollinators and the often unseen and unappreciated services they provide. It is easy to focus on the challenges this strategy faces, and the deficit in research and data. Rather, we are excited about the potential for new discoveries to make our bees happier and healthier, and even more excited to invite the public to join us!
                                                                                                                                   -Written by Rylee Hackley
Upcoming Events:

July 16.  Jaime Pawelek is leading a native bee workshop for the Santa Clara Co. Master Gardeners. 9am-1:30pm.

July 18.  Bee Garden Tour!  Bee garden docents, Lisa Lackey  and Carol Thornton will be leading a tour of the lab's experimental bee garden.  Tour starts at 1:30pm and is free, but donations always welcome to help with garden upkeep.

New Film by Team Candiru!

"The Solitary Bees"
Our new film partners, Team Candiru, have just released their first film on native bees of England.  We are excited to have them join us next year to film the native bees of California!  

We are still seeking donations for the new film, so please help us spread the word!  If you are able, please make your tax-deductible donation HERE!  You'll also get your name in the credits!!
This year's count just wrapped up and we had another successful year counting and collecting bees throughout Sonoma.   This year we had 11 citizens paired with mentor's from our lab that collected bees from 3 locations within the city.  Stay tuned for results!

 "The actions of a single person can make a difference - every citizen can contribute to pollinator conservation and should have the opportunity to become engaged in ways that are meaningful"
 - page 19,  National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators 
Bee of the Month – Diadasia
Summer is upon us bringing heat to most of California and with it the Mallow-Loving Digger Bees (Diadasia spp.)!  The genus Diadasia is represented by about 20 species in California, and we’ve recorded about 8 species in our urban survey work.  These bees are mostly specialists or oligoleges, collecting pollen from certain plant families like Malvaceae (Sphaeralcea and Malacothamnus), Cactaceae (Opuntia), Convolvulaceae (Calystegia and Convolvulus) and Asteraceae (Helianthus).  While these bees sip nectar from a variety of flowers, they are required to collect pollen from these specific plants, depending on what type of Diadasia they are.
These are small to medium-sized stout bees, some completely covered in velvety hairs.  Their heads are not as broad as their abdomens and the top of their heads is rounded, a distinguishing character of this group.  The females build nests, often in dense aggregations, where their nests can be easily seen due to the “turrets” they build above ground.   The turrets are made from cemented soil particles and can be erect, angled, or horizontal above the soil.  The nest site may be active for a few years and then they will move to a new location to help keep down parasites.
To encourage these bees into your garden you must have their favorite host plants.  If you live in the desert, like Bishop or Palm Springs, try planting native Opuntia cactus to attract them.  Native sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are a favorite of Diadasia enavata, the sunflower chimney bee.
New Lab Research by
PhD Student Laura Ward

Laura's overall research for her PhD will explore how systemic insecticides (neonicotinoids) affect solitary native bees throughout their entire lifecycle.  The following is info on her summer pilot study in which she is trying to see if she can get solitary bees to nest in small cages.
This summer, I am studying solitary bee behavior in cages.  This requires fooling the bees into thinking that they are in the wild by mimicking their natural habitat. Why not just study them in the wild, you ask? It is difficult to study the behavior of individual solitary bees in the wild. Since I’m not a ninja, as soon as the bee flies through a bush or over a fence, I loose it. However, in cages, I can track individuals over a longer period of time. But tricking bees into behaving naturally in a cage is no small task.

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked this summer is where I get my bees. “Do you catch them with a net?” they ask. In fact, I have a stash of bees in cocoons in the refrigerator from commercial suppliers. This leads to the next most common question I’ve received this summer: “Bees come from cocoons?” The answer is yes!

In solitary bees, after mating, each female bee constructs a nest with little cells for each individual bee. In each cell, she prepares a loaf of pollen on which she lays an egg. She will later die, but the egg will hatch and the emerged larva consumes the pollen loaf. Once it’s big enough, the larva spins a cocoon and within which it matures into an adult bee.

I keep the cocoons in the fridge to simulate their overwintering period. When I’m ready for some bees, I take the cocoons out of the fridge and incubate them. Then, the adult bee chews it’s way through the cocoon and emerges into the world. Or in my case, emerges into a cage, where it is tended to on hand in foot by it’s own personal servant: yours truly.

Pictured below are mason bee coccoons and a male mason bee (Osmia lignaria).
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