UCCE Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County

Posts Tagged: honey bee

Bad Day for a Bee

It was a good day to be a praying mantis. It was not a good day to be a honey bee.

Just before noon today, we watched a green praying mantis lurking in the African blue basil, like a camouflaged soldier ready to ambush the enemy. His eyes remain focused on a single honey bee gathering nectar for her colony. She is moving slowly but methodically, buzzing from one blossom to another.

The predator and the prey. An epic battle. A battle that's been waging for millions of years.

The honey bee keeps nectaring. The praying mantis keeps watching. He is not admiring her nectaring skills. He is seeking a bee breakfast like the one he had yesterday.

Suddenly, with one swift leap, the praying mantis snares and traps the honey bee in his spiked forelegs. The bee struggles to escape but the mantis tightens his grip with his needlelike vise.

The bee will not be returning to her hive tonight.

Wait...what's this...a dive-bombing attack?

It is. A male leafcutter bee is dive-bombing the predator. Is he trying to protect his cousin, the honey bee, or just being territorial? At any rate, he is a double blur as he dive-bombs from above, targeting the predator and then pulling up to do it again. Five passes. Some near misses, some near body slams. Some passes are so close that their antennae touch.

The praying mantis glances at the leafcutter bee and continues eating, somewhat like the Carl Jr. commercial, "Don't bother me, I'm eating."

"I'm eating and you're next."

A praying mantis snares a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A praying mantis snares a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A praying mantis snares a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The leafcutter bee targets the praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The leafcutter bee targets the praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The leafcutter bee targets the praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The leafcutter bee nearly slams into the mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The leafcutter bee nearly slams into the mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The leafcutter bee nearly slams into the mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The praying mantis keeps eating. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The praying mantis keeps eating. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The praying mantis keeps eating. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The praying mantis polishes off the last morsel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The praying mantis polishes off the last morsel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The praying mantis polishes off the last morsel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, September 1, 2014 at 4:22 PM

A Taste of Honey

A honey bee collecting nectar from lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey connoisseur Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, opens the jar of lavender honey from France and sniffs the aroma. She breathes in deeply.

The "miel de lavande" produced by "apiculteur Marc Agnel" is creamed, as most lavender honeys are, she says. It arrived in San Francisco from France last week via my relatives (who love it).

"Honey from a specific plant doesn't always taste like the plant," Harris is saying, as she turns the wheel of the center's newly published Honey Flavor Wheel, a project benefitting bee health research at UC Davis. "Sometimes there is a bit of a surprise."

"Have the honey at room temperature, or slightly warmer, and covered," she advises. "This keeps all the volatiles inside the jar or cup."

Her observations about the honey and the procedure:

Aroma:  The first scent is very floral with a touch of lilac. The next, overwhelming smell is fruit! Something very juicy.

Next: take a taste. Let the honey sit on your tongue and dissolve slowly. Try to assess all the flavors that might be occurring. floral – lilac; fruity – cherry

Primary taste: This honey is simply sweet.

Texture: This is a smooth and creamy honey. Quite unusual.

Finish: Notice how the taste lasts. This honey is delicate – that is, it has a very light and very distinct flavor. It has a short duration with a lasting aroma that is filled with a bit of cherry, lilac and the first taste of lavender!

Honey Flavor Wheel
The Honey and Pollination Center produced the Honey Flavor Wheel after six months of research and development. “We brought together a group of 20 people--trained tasters, beekeepers and food enthusiasts--who worked together with a sensory scientist to come up with almost 100 descriptors,” Harris recalled.  “This wheel will prove invaluable to those who love honey and want to celebrate its nuances.” 

“I have always been astonished by the range of flavors in honey. And its aromas, too. Developing the wheel has been an astonishing learning experience at all levels. I now truly pay attention as I taste many different kinds of foods. I notice flavors from beginning to end.  

“I had one wonderful surprise during the tasting series," she recalled. "The sensory scientist we worked with, Sue Langstaff, had been to New Zealand and brought back several honeys. One was a wild flower called Viper's Bugloss. What an amazing aroma! Imagine sitting in a garden. The sun has just set. And the heady aromas of jasmine and  orange blossom together crowd the air. This is the scent of Viper's Bugloss. An astonishing honey. Now I want more!” 

The front of the colorful wheel lists the descriptors, including fruity, floral, herbaceous, woody, spicy, nutty, confectionary, caramel and earthy. No longer can you just say “sweet” when you taste honey or “sour, salty and bitter.”  If it's fruity, can you determine if it's berry, citrus, dried fruit, tree fruit or tropical fruit? If it falls into the confectionary category, can you pinpoint marshmallow, vanilla, maple, butterscotch, toffee, molasses, cotton candy, crème brûlée, burnt sugar or brown sugar? There's even an “animal” category” where you may opine that your sample of honey reminds you of a barnyard.

The back of the Honey Flavor Wheel tells you how to taste honey and shares four honey profiles (Florida tupelo, California orange blossom, Northwest blackberry and Midwestern clover) “so the consumer can get an idea of how to use this innovative product,” Harris said. 

(Check out the Sacramento Bee's YouTube video on Amina Harris's demonstration of the Honey Flavor Wheel.)

The Honey Flavor Wheel, measuring 8.25 inches, sells for $10 each, with all proceeds supporting bee health research at UC Davis. The product is available online and at several locations: the Honey and Pollination Center, located at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road; at the UC Davis Campus Bookstore and at the downtown Davis Campus Bookstore; and online.

 

Jar of lavender honey rests next to the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center's Honey Flavor Wheel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jar of lavender honey rests next to the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center's Honey Flavor Wheel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jar of lavender honey rests next to the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center's Honey Flavor Wheel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The jar of lavender honey,
The jar of lavender honey, "miel de lavande," is from France. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The jar of lavender honey, "miel de lavande," is from France. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Amina Harris sniffs the aroma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Amina Harris sniffs the aroma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Amina Harris sniffs the aroma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 5:32 PM

He Didn't Get the Message

No, no, no, you got it all wrong!

I said “Please don't eat the pollinators! No butterflies and no bees. Eat the flies, gnats, mosquitoes, aphids and stink bugs.  No butterflies or bees.”

Sadly, the praying mantis in our family bee garden does not listen to me. On Thursday morning, July 31 the praying mantis snagged and devoured a Western tiger swallowtail that made the fatal mistake of landing on his Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)

On Sunday morning, Aug. 2, while perched on the same flower, the praying mantis polished off a honey bee.

I was walking through the garden at the time but never saw the strike. One second he's lying in wait, and the next second, his powerful forelegs are gripping a honey bee.

You don't want to know what happened after that.

Still, I wonder...did the honey bee manage to sting him?

Praying mantis snags a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis snags a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Praying mantis snags a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Praying mantis getting a better grip. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis getting a better grip. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Praying mantis getting a better grip. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

It's the end for this honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's the end for this honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

It's the end for this honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, August 4, 2014 at 8:43 PM

Stems

Just one word--stems.

Bees forage on the lavender in our bee yard, but sometimes you'll see them on the stems.

Male longhorned bees, Melissodes agilis, sleep together on the stems and it's fascinating to watch them stir in the early morning, wiggle around, and then buzz off--usually to dive-bomb any critter that's foraging on "their" flowers that they're saving for the females of their species.

But every once in a while, an early riser, a honey bee, will pause on a lavender stem to soak in the warmth of the sun. Got to get those flight muscles warmed up! Busy day ahead for Apis mellifera.

A longhorned bee, Melissodes agilis, awakens on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A longhorned bee, Melissodes agilis, awakens on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A longhorned bee, Melissodes agilis, awakens on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee warming herself on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee warming herself on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee warming herself on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, July 18, 2014 at 10:06 PM

The Colors of Pollinator Week

As we near the end of celebrating National Pollinator Week, June 16-22, look around and see all the insects foraging on reddish-orange flowers. And occasionally, you might see a reddish-orange insect like the showy Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

Orange, a color commonly associated with autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving, is also a color that brightens many of our seasons and draws attention to special occasions, including Pollinator Week.

The reddish-orange Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) spreads its wings on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). A honey bee (Apis mellifera) and a sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis)  forage on a blanket flower (Gallardia). Another bee, the leafcutting bee, Megachile fidelis, and a green bottle fly take a liking to a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia).

Pollinators come in all sizes, shapes, colors and species, from bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, to flies.

Many folks throughout the country observe National Pollinator Week once a year, but some organizations, such as the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, protect our pollinators and promote pollinator conservation every day.

On their website:

"Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85 percent of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. The United States alone grows more than one hundred crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S. Beyond agriculture, pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent of all birds, and of mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears. In many places, the essential service of pollination is at risk from habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced disease."

Indeed, pollinators pack a punch.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) spreads its wings on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) spreads its wings on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) spreads its wings on a purple coneflower(Echinacea purpurea) (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis)  forages on a blanket flower (Gallardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis) forages on a blanket flower (Gallardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis) forages on a blanket flower (Gallardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A green bottle fly rests on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A green bottle fly rests on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A green bottle fly rests on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee (Apis mellifera) on a blanket flower (Gallardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee (Apis mellifera) on a blanket flower (Gallardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee (Apis mellifera) on a blanket flower (Gallardia) (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A leafcutting bee, Megachile fidelis, on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A leafcutting bee, Megachile fidelis, on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A leafcutting bee, Megachile fidelis, on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 10:31 PM

Next 5 stories | Last story

Webmaster Email: mdhachman@ucdavis.edu