This Saturday, August 19, 2017, is National Honey Bee Day. This commemoration was created by Pennsylvania beekeepers to recognize the beekeeping industry, honey bees, and the role they play in our food supply. Let's take this opportunity to honor the hard-working honey bees (they pollinate about 85% of bee-pollinated crops in the US, which is worth billions of dollars annually).
To keep honey bees healthy, access to ample, nutritious forage, i.e. flowers, is essential. It's important to provide year-round bloom and to include both pollen and nectar sources. The Haven's web page includes the information you need to develop this in your own garden; click here to go to all of our gardening resources.
The winter food garden also depends on honey bee pollination:
Early spring is when bees have a special need for pollen. This protein-rich plant component is fed to the young bees; an ample supply is important to building a strong colony. Early bloomers like ceanothus and California poppy are good pollen sources; March-blooming Spanish lavender provides a great nectar source that provides energy for spring foraging activity.
Late spring and into summer are when activity picks up in the bee garden. The hive is growing and there are bees to be fed! Here's a new bee entering the world, along with some of the pollen and nectar sources that will feed her:
The heat of late summer often leaves gardeners heading for the air-conditioning, but not our bees...here's some plants that love the heat:
Honey bees need access to water: they don't have AC like we do, but use water to cool the hive. Here's one way to provide a water source:
Fall bloomers are important to help honey bees put up enough honey to sustain the hive through the winter. Some good fall bloomers are shown here:
The result of all that hard work....cells being filled with honey, along with full frames of honey that have been capped by the bees for storage in the hive:
Thanks, bees, for your hard work!
At the Haven, volunteers make all the difference! We rely extensively on volunteers to maintain the garden, build displays and equipment, and conduct our outreach program. If you are visiting the garden and see one of our volunteers at work, please thank them.
Or if you have the time, how about volunteering yourself? You'll find an application here. Volunteers do routine garden tasks such as mulching, planting, and weeding. Or you may be trained to serve as a tour docent to teach visiting school groups about bees and plants.
We also welcome service clubs and corporate volunteer groups. In the past year, we've hosted volunteers from UCD student service groups Circle K and LOXi, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, and corporate teams from PG&E and LexisNexis.
A few of our volunteers at work:
All volunteers during the past year:
Ashley Abrahamson, Tim Adams, Fatima Ademoh, Esteliva Agostinow, Emilia Aguirre, Prosper Ammquandoh, Sheyenne Augenstein, Maame Aulcoh, Michael Baagg, Stephanie Beck, Cristina Blaser, Adele Boadzo, Emily Boch, Landon Bodley, Corina Bogden, Keith Bruni, Ariyanna Cashen, Sabrina Castaneda, Admore Chiumi, Amy Cho, Katherine Craudinier, Justine Do-Huym, Chloe Ffrench, Audrey Foulk, Alexandra Fox, Elizabeth Fundora, Tanoh Ghislain, Alana Goodman, Selena Harrison, Carissa Huang, Daren Hughes, Allen Huynh, James Kakeeto, Diane Kelly, Carolyn Kipsay, Sharon Kirkpatrick, Dysmus Kisiher, Bonny Lew, Stephanie Macey, Iongwa Mashangao, Mizan Massa, Lucretia Mbogba, Tshegofatso Meeuwfan, Megan Mekelburg, Katelyn Mohr, Sarah Mulwe, Dennis Mweudur, Beatrice Ngugi, Lisa Nguyen, Paul Nkumbula, Jennie Norene, Owoeye Olakunle, Kristin Oles, Judy Pam, Valerie Panameno, Erik Sandberg, Shamir Semedo, Bar Shacterman, Andrew Stone, Garrett Tanquay, Robbin Thorp, Carole Tomaszek, Leanna Tran, Daphne Tran, Yves Tuyishime, Betty Warne, Linda Watson-McMurdie, Michael Wells, Lynette Williams, Rick Williams, Guyla Yoak
One great plant that's often overlooked as a choice for the bee garden is flannel bush -- also referred to as California fremontia -- (Fremontodendron californicum). While the species is sometimes available, you're more likely to find one of the cultivars. Look for this plant at specialty nurseries or well-stocked independent garden centers. The species and its cultivars 'California Glory', 'Pacific Sunset', and 'San Gabriel' are quite large, reaching up to 20 feet in height. The cultivar 'Ken Taylor' is more manageable for a small garden; 'Ken' will reach up to six feet tall and 10 feet wide but can be kept smaller with pruning.
Here's why flannel bush makes a great choice for the California (Sunset zones 4-24) bee garden:
1. It's an attractive, eye-catching plant. The large, 3-inch wide flowers cover this plant at peak bloom. You may have noticed large plants along California highways that are covered in yellow flowers come springtime. That's flannel bush...from California Native Plants for the Garden: "A California fremontia in full bloom is an unforgettable sight." This plant was photographed at the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento.
2. Going low water? Flannel bush needs NO summer water, in fact summer water is HARMFUL to this plant. Like many of our California natives, it evolved in hot, dry areas in the absence of the root diseases that are favored by warm, wet conditions. It thus has no defenses against these diseases.
3. Fast growing. Flannel bush grows quickly; you'll have lots of bloom by the second year after planting. This also makes it a good candidate for an espalier. The best cultivars for this are 'California Glory' and 'San Gabriel'. This photo of 'Ken Taylor' was taken one year after planting, at which point is was already about 4 feet across. This cultivar, which is a cross of the Sierra foothills species Fremontodendron californicum decumbens and 'California Glory', has a prostrate form that looks nice on a bank orberm. This is also a great way to provide the excellent drainage this plant needs. Another small (3 feet tall by 6 feet wide) flannel bush is 'Dara's Choice', which was introduced by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. It is a cross between Fremontodendron californicum decumbens and Fremontodendron mexicanum.
4. Fun fact for plant nerds....flannel bush nectar fluoresces blue under UV light. Amaze your friends and family with this neat trick! This was first observed by UCD Entomology's own Robbin Thorp many years ago (Thorp, RW et al. 1975. Science (189): 476-478). This property has been observed in many plant nectars and is thought to provide a visual cue to foraging bees (remember that bees see in the UV spectrum).
5. Flannel bush nectar is nutritious. It is rich in isoflavenoids, which may have antimicrobial properties helpful to bees (Scogin, R. 1979. Bot. Gazette (140): 29-31).
We have Fremontodendron californicum and the hybrid 'Ken Taylor' at the Haven. There are also several nice specimens at the UC Davis Arboretum. This plant is at its best in early spring. One note of caution: some people are irritated by the small hairs that cover its leaves. Plan on wearing gloves and long sleeves when pruning.
One of the most popular The Bee Gardener posts to date was published on November 10, 2014 in honor of Veterans Day. Since that publication, we've added lots of red, white, and blue flowers to the Honey Bee Haven; beekeeping programs to help vets have proliferated as well. Today's post covers some of the additions.
Both bees and veterans work hard and make contributions that many of us take for granted. In recognition of their service, some agricultural and beekeeping organizations provide support to veterans who would like to make beekeeping their profession. These include:
USDA-ARS: Putting Honey Bees to Work for Veterans
Bee Veterans, based at the University of Minnesota's Bee Lab
Facebook: Bees for Vets
A red,white, and blue bee garden is a great way to honor a vet. Although bees do not see red, they will use red flowers. The flower color 'blue' can be anything from a true blue to purple, while the color 'red' often includes orange and pink tones. A complete list of plants in the Honey Bee Haven, including information on water use and pollen and nectar resources, is here.
|Common Name||Color||Bloom time|
|Aster (many cultivars; see our post)||Blue||Fall|
|California buckwheat (see our post)||White||Summer-fall|
|Catmint (many cultivars)||Blue||Spring-summer-fall|
|Ceanothus (many species and cultivars; see our post)||Blue||Winter-spring|
|Coneflower 'Powwow White'||White||Summer|
|Lavender (many species and cultivars)||Blue||Winter-spring-summer|
|Manzanita (many species and cultivars; see our post)||White||Winter|
|Russian sage (many cultivars)||Blue||Summer-fall|
Here are some of the red, white, and blue flowers you'll see at the Haven during the winter:
Join us at the Haven at noon on October 12 for a discussion about bees and climate change. Part of the UC Davis Campus Book Project discussion series, our event features two presentations. This year's book -- Stuffed and Starved -- is about the world's food system. What could be more relevant to a discussion about food than bees?
Native bee expert Robbin Thorp will talk about how climate change might affect the synchrony between solitary bees and their host plants, and Haven program representative Christine Casey will discuss making bee gardens resilient to climate change.