UCCE Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County
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UCCE Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County

Posts Tagged: honey bee

We're Thankful We're Not a Bee

Today is Thanksgiving.

As we give thanks and reflect on a day set aside to be grateful, we realize that not all is great in the world of haves and have-nots, the generous and the greedy, and troublemakers and peacemakers.

Miscommunications turn into misunderstandings. Agreements turn into disagreements. Harmony turns into hostility. Like an open wound, tensions bulge, crack and fester.  Life saddens, disappoints and crushes us. 

But today is Thanksgiving, a day to be grateful. All around us, people are giving thanks, sharing memories, shoring up the holiday spirit, and feasting on turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Among the many things we are grateful for: we are grateful that we are not a turkey.

Last summer as a praying mantis "prayed" for dinner in our bee garden, we were thankful we were not a bee.

On Thanksgiving, we're grateful we're not a bee, this bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
On Thanksgiving, we're grateful we're not a bee, this bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

On Thanksgiving, we're grateful we're not a bee, this bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, November 27, 2014 at 8:05 AM
Tags: honey bee (148), praying mantis (9), Thanksgiving (3)

Seeing Eye-to-Eye on a Sedum

If you've ever watched a Gray Hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) nectaring a sedum, and then watched a honey bee (Apis mellifera) land on the same flower, it's a study in sharing.

"I was here first," says the Gray Hairstreak, sipping nectar.

"I was here second," says the honey bee.

So they wind up sharing, the butterfly and the honey bee. It's autumn and there's not much nectar anywhere.

"Stay back," says the butterfly.

"No," says the honey bee. "My colony needs the nectar."

So they crawl slowly on the blossom, meeting head to head, as if to prove that yes, "We can all get along."

The Gray Hairstreak is not so sure. The honey bee abruptly moves closer, and the startled butterfly lifts off to find another blossom.

The butterfly will be first again on a nearby sedum.

Honey bee sharing a sedum blossom with a Gray Hairstreak. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee sharing a sedum blossom with a Gray Hairstreak. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee sharing a sedum blossom with a Gray Hairstreak. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A little closer...the honey bee edges toward the Gray Hairstreak. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A little closer...the honey bee edges toward the Gray Hairstreak. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A little closer...the honey bee edges toward the Gray Hairstreak. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Too close for comfort. The Gray Hairstreak takes off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Too close for comfort. The Gray Hairstreak takes off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Too close for comfort. The Gray Hairstreak takes off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 9:39 PM

Bees 'n Blooms

Co-author Gordon Frankie (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bees 'n blooms. Blooms 'n bees.

Add "California" to it and you have California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.

It's a book that's well-planned, well-executed, well-written and well-photographed.

Bees are hungry. What plants will attract them? How can you entice them to your garden and encourage them not only to visit but to live there?

The book, the first of its kind, profiles some of the most common bee genera found in California gardens; their preferred plants, both native and non-native; and how to attract them.

Most folks are familiar with honey bees and bumble bees. But what about the other bees, such as mining, leafcutting, sweat, carpenter, digger, masked, longhorned, mason and polyester bees?

Co-author Barbara Ertter
The authors point out that of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California.

Published by the nonprofit Heyday Books in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society, the book is the work of four scientists closely linked to UC Berkeley: urban entomologist Gordon Frankie, a professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley; native pollinator specialist and emeritus professor Robbin Thorp of UC Davis (he received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley); insect photographer and entomologist Rollin Coville, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley; and botanist/curator Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley. 

“This book is about urban California's bees: what they are, how and where they live, their relationships with ornamental flowers, and how to attract them to urban gardens,” they wrote. “It was written in the urgency of knowing that bees are critical to the health of our natural, ornamental and agricultural landscapes and that populations of some, perhaps many are in rapid decline.”

Co-author Rollin Coville
Frankie, who has researched bees in urban gardens in California for 13 years, says: “While the book is specific to California, larger insights can be gathered about the role of native bees in developed landscapes (such as agriculture), and native bee conservation."

Frankie studies behavioral ecology of solitary bees in wildland, agricultural and urban environments of California and Costa Rica.  He teaches conservation and environmental issues. He is involved in how people relate to bees and their plants and how to raise human awareness about bee-plant relationships.

Co-author Robbin Thorp, who retired in 1994 after 30 years of teaching, research and mentoring graduate students, continues to conduct research on pollination biology and ecology, systematics, biodiversity and conservation of bees, especially bumble bees. He is one of the instructors at the The Bee Course, affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The course is geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who seek greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.

“The book is profusely illustrated with photos and drawings of bees and flowers, especially notable are the magnificent close-up images of bees by co-author Rollin Coville,” Thorp said.

Ertter thoroughly explores the anatomy of a flower. Bees and flowers constitute what the authors delightfully describe as "a love affair."

California's bees differ in size, shape and color, as do the flowers they visit. “The tiniest bees are ant-sized; the largest rival small birds,” the authors wrote. “Some are iridescent green or blue, some are decked out with bright stripes, some are covered with fuzzy-looking hairs.”

“Nature has programmed bees to build nests and supply their young with nutritious pollen and nectar, and their unique methods for collecting these resources are fascinating to observe. Their lives are dictated by season, weather and access to preferred flower types and nesting habitat.”

California Bees and Blooms lists 53 of urban California's best bee attractors identified through the Urban California Native Bee Survey. Among them:  aster, bluebeard, catmint, California lilac or Ceanothus, cosmos, California sunflower, red buckwheat, California poppy, blanket flower, oregano, rosemary, lavender, gum plant, and salvia (sage). With each plant, they provide a description; origin and natural habitat, range and use in California; flowering season; resource for bees (such as pollen and nectar), most frequent bee visitors, bee ecology and behavior and gardening tips.

The book offers tips on how readers can “think like a bee.” It devotes one chapter to “Beyond Bee Gardening: Taking Action on Behalf of Native Bees.” In addition, the book provides quotes on bees and/or bee gardens from Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (retired) of UC Davis: Ellen Zagory, horticulture director of the UC Davis Arboretum; and Kate Frey of Hopland, a designer of sustainable, insect-friendly gardens throughout California and in some parts of the world.

For more data on the book, the authors, and purchase information, access the publisher's website at  https://heydaybooks.com/book/california-bees-and-blooms/.

And for ongoing research on California's bees and blooms, be sure to check out the UC Berkeley website, appropriately named www.helpabee.org..

A honey bee and yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenski, share a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee and yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenski, share a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee and yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenski, share a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp with a copy of the book. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp with a copy of the book. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp with a copy of the book. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 5:42 PM

A, B, and C: What They Really Stand for...

Give me an "A" (for excellence).

Give me a "B" (for bee).

Give me a "C" (for Cosmos).

Watching honey bees collect nectar and pollen on the showy Cosmos (Cosmos bipannatus) is not to be missed.

As if performing a ballet, the enchanting bees enter stage left and are such show-stoppers that you want to erupt with applause at every precise move. Bravo!

Cosmos is a spectacular annual with saucer-shaped floral heads, ranging in color from white and pink to lavender and crimson. It's a relatively late bloomer. In our family bee garden, they began blooming in late summer and are continuing into fall.

In their newly published book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, entomologists Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley and Robbin Thorp of UC Davis teamed with photographer Rollin Coville (UC Berkeley-trained entomologist) and botanist Barbara Ertter (UC Berkeley) to offer interesting information on bee species and advice for growing and managing bee friendly plants. It's a "must-have" for every gardener and naturalist or would-be gardeners and naturalists. Did you know there are more than 1600 different species of bees in California alone, and some 4000 throughout the country?

One section goes into depth about plants, including Cosmos. You'll learn its description, origin and natural habitat, range and use in urban California, flowering season, resource for bees (nectar and pollen), most frequent bee visitors, and bee ecology and behavior. It's not surprising that the book, by Heyday, is published in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society.

And what are the most frequent bee visitors? "A wide variety of bee species, especially Melissodes robustior, Melissodes species, and Halictus ligatus. In the Central Valley, it attracts honey bees, Agapostemon texanus, Anthophora urbana, Xeromelecta californica, and Svastra obiqua expurgata."

The authors describe all those species--and more. Some we know generally as longhorned bees, sweat bees, metallic green sweat bees, digger bees, and sunflower bees.

Blooms. Bees. Beautiful.

Honey bee heading for a Cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee heading for a Cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee heading for a Cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

All the right moves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
All the right moves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

All the right moves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The grand entrance. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The grand entrance. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The grand entrance. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The reward: nectar and pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The reward: nectar and pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The reward: nectar and pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 5:34 PM

The Good Life

Okra. You either love it or hate.

If you hate it, it's probably because of its characteristic "slime" that it produces. It's a mucilaginous plant. If you love it-- absolutely love it--you may be from the Deep South, where okra is king. They bread the slender green pods and deep-fry them. And they pickle them. It's also a key ingredient in gumbo.

Indeed, it's a vegetable rich in Vitamin C, fiber and potassium.

But if you're a garden spider living in the Good Life Garden at the University of California, Davis, you depend on the tall okra plants to weave your web and trap insects. Then you can spin them around, wrap them tighter than a ball of string, and feast on them later.

The Good Life Garden is located behind the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road. It's a well-cared for garden chock full of fruits, vegetables, herbs and ornamentals.

And predators and prey.

Its aim, according to its website, is "to educate the public on how to buy and plant seasonal vegetables for the best taste and highest nutritional content. Each season the garden's planting list will be available online along with information on how to grow, harvest, buy, and cook the various plants, herbs, and fruits found in the garden."

The garden is aptly named. The Good Life.

Good for people, predators and prey. 

And photographers.

A garden spider wraps its prey, a honey bee, in The Good Life Garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A garden spider wraps its prey, a honey bee, in The Good Life Garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A garden spider wraps its prey, a honey bee, in The Good Life Garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Garden spider struggles with its prey, a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Garden spider struggles with its prey, a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Garden spider struggles with its prey, a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014 at 9:35 PM

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