Posts Tagged: Shannon Mueller
The hard work put in every summer by leafcutter bees was spotlighted by KQED Science, which took a Deep Look at an introduced pollinator that makes bountiful alfalfa seed production possible in California.
For facts behind the 'gee whiz' video, KQED turned to Shannon Mueller, UC Cooperative Extension alfalfa advisor emeritus, who helped introduce leafcutter bees in the early 1990s.
What makes leafcutter bees special? It's their innate ability to 'trip' alfalfa flowers, which is beautifully explained and shown - in slow motion - in the Deep Look video.
Cutters were “game changers” in the alfalfa seed business because they're much better at pollinating alfalfa than honeybees, Mueller said. Cutters trip 80 percent of flowers they visit, compared to honeybees, which only trip about 10 percent.
Leafcutting bees pollinate alfalfa, allowing the plants to form seeds. The seeds will be grown to make nutritious hay for dairy cows, giving credit to leafcutter bees' for their labor on the first step to making ice cream.
"I'm a very proud 4-H member, from 4th grade to early college, in beef, rocketry and sugar beet (projects)," Jacobsen said. "When we think of 4-H, it's just so much more than those projects. There are so many leadership opportunities for these kids."
Jacobsen interviewed John Borba, the 4-H youth development advisor for UCCE in Kern county.
"4-H has an emphasis on citizenship, leadership and learning life skills," Borba said. "We encourage youth to take on leadership responsibilities, where the older youth mentor the younger youth."
Borba said 4-H program in California, which has 120,000 youth participants and 14,000 adult volunteers, isn't just for rural kids.
"In the San Joaquin Valley, 4-H is offered in the traditional mode, 4-H clubs, where volunteer leaders assist the youth in different programs. But we also have programs on military bases, active duty and national guard, and we have after-school programs where we teach the staff ... to provide 4-H programs after school."
Jacobsen interviewed Shanon Mueller, the director of UCCE in Fresno County, at the Garden of the Sun, a one-acre demonstration garden created and maintained by the UCCE Master Gardener program.
She explained the role of UCCE's farm advisors and nutrition educators.
"Farm advisors bring the research-based information to the county," Mueller said. "A lot of times we can't directly import that. We will adapt that research so it's locally relevant. We do research trials, demonstration trials. We have field days, workshops, meetings."
Mueller continued, "Our goal is to bring the most up-to-date information to growers on varieties, production practices, irrigation, pest management. Any component that relates to agriculture to make sure we keep our ag economy strong."
Mueller said Fresno County UCCE maintains one of the premiere nutrition programs in the state. Much of the nutrition education takes place in Fresno County schools.
"They talk about good nutrition, physical activity and health issues in classrooms," Mueller said. "One of the fun activities they do is monthly tasting time. They will bring some product for the kids to taste in a comfortable environment. All the kids are tasting jicama, apricots or something they haven't tried before in hopes that they'll try it and like it and that their parents will buy it at the grocery store."
Valley's Gold is produced by the Fresno County Farm Bureau and appears on the local PBS affiliate, KVPT.
The ag education episode can also be viewed below. Borba's interview begins at 12:25 and Mueller's at 15:08.
A Chowchilla beekeeper lost more than 400 hives to thieves this month, but with networking and investigation, was able to find the hide-out and get his bees back.
"They (farmers) are paying about $180 a hive, so those hives are worth a lot of money and because of that, we’ve seen a real increase in the theft of colonies," Mueller said.
In all, the stolen bee colonies were worth about $120,000, according to an article in AgAlert.
"The good news is after some tips from other local beekeepers and some searching, we found the missing bees and called the local sheriff's department," beekeeper Brian Long was quoted in the AgAlert article. "We just got lucky and got enough tips that led us to the bees."
Still, Long estimates he lost between $12,000 and $15,000 after hundreds of bees died in the commotion.
Beekeepers and farmers cannot afford the loss of any bees. Between February and March, California's 750,000 acres of almonds require an estimated 1.2 million bee colonies for pollination. UC Davis entomologist Eric Mussen told AgAlert reporter Christine Souza that strong colonies of bees may be scarce this season.
"Despite these problems, it seems that every year the lure of almond pollination fees entices enough beekeepers to bring their bees to California to meet the needs of the almond growers," Mussen said.
Shannon Mueller appeared on an evening news story about the bee heist.