- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California.
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.
In addition to the well-known honey bees and bumble bees, the authors spotlight such bees as mining, leafcutting, carpenter, sweat, digger, masked, longhorned, mason and polyester bees.
The honey bee, which provides pollination services valued at $217 billion globally and $20 million in the United States alone, is the most recognizable of the bees, but many are unaware of its non-native status. European colonists brought the honey bee to America in 1622.
California Bees and Bloom, published by the nonprofit Heyday Books in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society, is the work of urban entomologist Gordon Frankie. a professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley; native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; 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.”
“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,” said Frankie, who researched bees in urban gardens in California for 13 years.
The book traces the first fossilized bee to Burma's Hukawng Valley, where it was lodged in amber approximately 100 million years ago.
The book destroys such myths as:
1. All bees make honey. Fact: Most native bees make no honey at all.
2. Bees die after they sting. Fact: Only the honey bees die; native solitary bees do not.
3. Male bees don't pollinator flowers. Fact: Male engage in pollination, but are not as efficient as most females.
4. Honey bees displace native bees on flowers. Fact: There is no evidence of that. In fact, “Recent research does indicate that interaction between honey bees and native bees results in an increase in the activity and efficiency of honey bees with regard to visiting (and pollinating) crops.”
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,” they wrote. “Some are iridescent green or blue, some are decked out with bright stripes, some are covered with fuzzy-looking hairs.”
Co-author Gordon Frankie's specialty is 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.
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/
For ongoing research on California's bees and blooms, see the UC Berkeley website, www.helpabee.org.