UCCE Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County
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Posts Tagged: honey bee

Honey Bee Impostor

A honey bee on ceanothus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's often mistaken for a honey bee.

Indeed, to the untrained eye, the drone fly (Eristalis tenax) appears to be a bee. It's not; it's a fly.

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, calls the drone fly "The H Bee." That's because there's an "H" on its abdomen (see photo). Like all flies, however, it can be distinguished by one pair of wings and stubby antennae. The larva of the fly is a rat-tailed maggot that lives in drainage ditches, pooled manure piles and other polluted water. The adults are floral visitors. Pollinators.

The "H Bee" was among the pollinators that Thorp discussed at the UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop, hosted March 6 by the California Center for Urban Horticulture.

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, switched from bee mimics (drone flies, syrphid flies and other insects) to talk about the "real" honey bees, Apis mellifera, which European colonists introduced to what is now the United States in 1622 "The honey bees' biggest problem today is malnourishment," he said.  "A single honey bee colony requires an acre of bloom to meet its nutritional needs each day," he said. 

The queen can lay 2000 eggs a day in peak season. "One cell of honey and one cell of pollen make one bee."

He urged the participants to "try to plant for late summer and fall bloom, when honey bees in California are having a hard time finding nectar and pollen resources."

A drone fly on ceanothus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Particularly attractive to bees are manzanita species, Eucalyptus trees, catalpa, basswood, tulip tree, wild mustard and radish, ceanothus  (wild lilac) and ornamental shrubs such as lavender, rosemary and thyme. Also, borage, sunflower, asters, catmint and other mints, chives, filaree, vetch, tarweed, goldenrod, blue curls (Trichostema lanceolatum), phacelia and penstemon.

Mussen cautioned that bees are subjected to toxic pollens and unnatural toxins (pesticides). Plants poisonous to bees include the California buckeye (Aesculus californica) death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum), corn lily (Veratrum californicum) and some locoweeeds (Astragalus spp.)  

Pesticides inside the hive (used to control varroa mites) and outside the hives can be fatal. However, he said, "any kind of pesticide a bee encounters--there's always a physiological change."

Following the morning-long speaker presentations, the participants visited the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive to check out and/or purchase Arboretum All-Stars and other plants, and they toured the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road that is under the wing of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The garden is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.

Among those traveling the longest distance were Lake Tahoe UC Master Gardeners Lynne Broche and Bonnie Turnbull and  Turnbull's 14-year-old daughter, Jessie Brown, a junior Master Gardener and an avid insect photographer.

The ceanothus blooming in the haven especially drew the attention of the workshop participants. Insects foraging in the ceanothus included two so-called "H bees"--the honey bee and its impostor, the H-marked drone fly. 

The drone fly, Eristalis tenax, is often mistaken for a bee. The fly has the letter
The drone fly, Eristalis tenax, is often mistaken for a bee. The fly has the letter "H" on its thorax. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The drone fly, Eristalis tenax, is often mistaken for a bee. The fly has the letter "H" on its abdomen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

essie Brown, 14, a junior UC Master Gardener with the Lake Tahoe Master Gardeners, photographs insects in the ceanothus at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven.  (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
essie Brown, 14, a junior UC Master Gardener with the Lake Tahoe Master Gardeners, photographs insects in the ceanothus at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jessie Brown, 14, a junior UC Master Gardener with the Lake Tahoe Master Gardeners, photographs insects in the ceanothus at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 11:22 PM

Do Honey Bees Impact the Native Bees?

The European honey bee, also known as the Western honey bee, has been in the United States for s-o-o-o long that we think it's a native.

It's not. European colonists brought the honey bee (Apis mellifera) to the Jamestown colony (Virginia) in 1622. The native Americans called it "the white man's fly."  And the honey bee wasn't even introduced to California until 1853. That was in the middle of the California Gold Rush, 1848-1858, when it arrived in the San Jose area.

Our ancestors quickly became quite fond of the industrious little pollinator and honey/wax producer buzzing around them.  

Today, as they did, we frequently see non-native and native bees sharing nectar resources, such as in the photos below of honey bees  and yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii).

We're often asked: "Do honey bees, being an invasive species, impact the native bees?"

We put that question to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's served as California's Extension apiculturist since 1976, almost 40 years.

His answer: "We do not have a definitive answer to that question.  But, since honey bees have been living in what is now the U.S. for just short of 400 years, it is likely that honey bees and native bees determined, long ago, how to partition resources at any particular location so that both species survived.  It is true that only honey bees can be moved into and out of a specific location overnight, and that might put a stress on local populations of native bees, but I never have heard of honey bees eliminating native bees from any particular spot."

That's the buzz on bees. 

A honey bee and a yellow-faced bumble bee sharing a purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee and a yellow-faced bumble bee sharing a purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee and a yellow-faced bumble bee sharing a purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two's company: A honey bee and a yellow-faced bumble bee forage on Scabiosa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two's company: A honey bee and a yellow-faced bumble bee forage on Scabiosa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two's company: A honey bee and a yellow-faced bumble bee forage on Scabiosa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, March 14, 2014 at 9:47 PM
Tags: bumble bee (5), forage (1), honey bee (130), native bees (1)

The Power of Red

UC Davis t-shirt logo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
There's a heartfelt reason why Friday, Feb. 7 is "UC Davis Wears Red Day."   

It's about raising awareness for heart disease, the No. 1 killer of both men and women. It's a battle we need to fight with an arsenal of weapons.

Spearheading the campuswide initiative is Chancellor Linda Katehi, partnering with Dr. Amparo Villablanca, director of the UC Davis Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program, and Adele Zhang, curator of the UC Davis Design Museum. For the occasion, the UC Davis Bookstore is selling specially designed t-shirts. Red, of course. With a heart, of course.

A highlight of the events-crowded day will be an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for the largest heart formation. The current record: 11,166, set Feb. 27, 2010 in Nuevo León, Mexico. 

So UC Davis is inviting everyone, everyone everywhere, to wear red and gather at 11:30 a.m. on Hutchison Intramural Field, rain or shine.  The photo will be taken at 12:30.

It's unlikely that insects, the key subject of this blog, will be a part of the red heart formation, but hey, some insects are red, some are red-eyed and some occasionally wear red.

The lady beetle, aka ladybug (family Coccinellidae, is probably the most recognizable red of our insects.

The flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata, is a showstopping red. Firecracker red!

Some flies have prominent red eyes, including the flesh fly from the family Sarcophagidae.

And honey bees--they can play the red game, too. They gather red pollen from a variety of plants, including rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), pear (Pyrus communis),and henbit (Lamium amplexicaule).

Frankly, we think it might rain during the heart formation, but as the UC Davis officials say: “Heart disease doesn't stop for rain and neither do we!"

We'll see red and the heart formation will be a sea of red. Maybe 11,167.

A syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly, sipping nectar from a tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly, sipping nectar from a tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly, sipping nectar from a tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A lady beetle, aka lady bug, is a
A lady beetle, aka lady bug, is a "lady in red." (Photo by Kathy Keatley)

A lady beetle, aka lady bug, is a "lady in red." (Photo by Kathy Keatley)

A flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata, rests on a stake. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata, rests on a stake. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata, rests on a stake. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A flesh fly, family Sarcophagidae, grooming itself.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A flesh fly, family Sarcophagidae, grooming itself.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A flesh fly, family Sarcophagidae, grooming itself. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee with red pollen from a nearby rock puslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee with red pollen from a nearby rock puslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee with red pollen from a nearby rock puslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 10:05 PM

'Quincing' Our Thirst

You can quench your thirst.

And then you can "quince" your thirst.

That would be a honey bee on a flowering quince.

Yes, the flowering quince are flowering. And none too soon in our drab landscape, nearly devoid of color.

Today the honey bees seems to be in a feeding frenzy. They emerged from their hives and went looking for food for their colonies.  They found it in the flowering quince, amid the contrasting deep pink and soft pink blossoms.

The spiny shrub, in the rose family (Rosaceae) and genus Chaenomeles, is a native of eastern Asia, originating in Japan, China and Korea.

When the flowering quince flowers, that's a sure sign that spring is peeking around winter's corner. 

Honey bee keeps a close eye on the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey(
Honey bee keeps a close eye on the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey(

Honey bee keeps a close eye on the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey(

Honey bee foraging on flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee foraging on flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bottoms up. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bottoms up. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bottoms up. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, January 20, 2014 at 7:43 PM
Tags: Chaenomeles (1), flowering quince (3), honey bee (130)

Seeing Red: Holiday Red

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as "red pollen."

Like people, pollen comes in many colors and all are beautiful. All.

The floral source determines the color of the pollen. Just as nectar is a carbohydrate source, pollen is a protein source. Honey bees need both to rear the brood.

One of my favorite bee images is a photo I took in my backyard of a honey bee sipping nectar from lavender. "What's that red stuff on her?" non-bee folks ask.

Pollen. Red pollen.

Bee folks question its origin. It's from the nearby rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). This honey bee, after gathering protein from the rock purslane, buzzed over to the lavender for some carbo loading.  A little fuel for her flight back to the hive.

Bees gather red pollen from many floral sources, including not only rock purslane--a succulent--but horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), pear (Pyrus communis), and henbit (Lamium amplexicaule).

When I see red pollen, I think of the beauty of a delicate flower transferred over to a hard-working bee. I don't think of the color's negative connotations: red tape, red-eye flight, red herring, and caught red-handed.

"Red pollen" is "Christmas red" or "holiday red."

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! And the best of the new year!

Honey bee with red pollen (from neighboring rock purslane) sipping nectar from lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee with red pollen (from neighboring rock purslane) sipping nectar from lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee with red pollen (from neighboring rock purslane) sipping nectar from lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee, packing red pollen, returning to a rock purslane blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee, packing red pollen, returning to a rock purslane blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee, packing red pollen, returning to a rock purslane blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 10:07 AM

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