For months, I've been waiting ah, so patiently (well, not always s-o-o-o patiently) for the gulf fritillary butterfly to touch down on our Mexican sunflower, Tithonia.
A perfect match, I figured. The showy reddish-orange butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) sipping nectar from the equally orange and showy Mexican sunflower.
No such luck. Every time I'd check the yard for the special butterfly-blossom scenario, it was always landing on something else: multi-colored lantana, lavender lantana, and the passion flower vine (genus Passiflora).
And occasionally, a pomegranate tree or tomato plant.
Oh, sure, it did visit the Tithonia, but it would vanish before I could grab the camera.
However, on Sunday, following the San Francisco Giants' game, I was thinking orange. Bright orange. Baseball orange. I stepped outside, and voila!
Touchdown! The perfect match!
The butterfly lingered long enough for me to capture its image, a side view of its silver-spangled wings, as well as a bird's eye view (Please, scrub jays, don't eat my butterfly.) It then fluttered off to the passion flower vine.
The gulf flit was once prevalent in the Sacramento area in the 1960s, but "it seems to have died out by the early 1970s," according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
It's been making a comeback in the Sacramento area since 2009.
Sunday was a perfect comeback day. And a perfect touchdown day!
Look at the Xylocopa on the Xanthorrhoeaceae.
If that sounds like a mouthful, think of the mountain or foothill carpenter bees, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, on bulbine from the genus Bulbine in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae.
Carpenter bees and honey bees are among bees attracted to the yellowish-orange flower with bearded stamens. A native of South Africa, it's also known as yellow bulbine, snake flower and cat's tail.
The carpenter bee below is a male nectaring on Bulbine frutescens.
Bulbine is blooming now in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted in 2009 by the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
The garden, owned and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is open from dawn to dusk for self-guided tours. Admission is free. The art that graces the garden is the work of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
The garden's mission: to provide a year-around food source for the bees at the Laidlaw facility and other pollinators; to draw attention to the plight of the bees; and to give visitors an idea of what they can plant in their own gardens.
Then just add bees. Ceramic bees.
Northern California artist Donna Billick and UC Davis entomologist Diane Ullman, co-founders and co-directors of the 16-year-old UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, have launched a hands-on educational, bee-awareness program called "Miss Bee Haven" in which participants sculpt ceramic bees for their garden or home.
"We're trying to make a difference in supporting hard-working bee populations around the world by creating a permanent ceramic tribute to them," said Billick, who is also a beekeeper. She keeps four bee hives on her property just outside the city of Davis.
Ullman is the associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and a professor of entomology. Billick, a self-described rock artist, directs the Billick Rock Art and Todos Artes, creating large-scale public art.
They're inviting people of all ages, from children to senior citizens, to sculpt a bee with clay and glaze as a "handmade tribute to our pollinators, the bees."
She added: "This is a strategy where learning about bees is passed onto a community of people by a team of artists and scientists that use the medium of clay to teach. The intention is to assist the learners to make a beautiful clay sculpture of a bee."
The bees are structurally correct, from the wax glands to the pollen basket to the sting. Participants form a bee with clay and paint it. Then the bees are fired in a ceramic kiln to be "a permanent rock-hard tribute to our bee pollinators." A metal rod holds the bee upright for placement in a flower bed, potted plant or vase.
"They're beautiful," said Queen Turner, head of the beekeeping section at the Ministry of Agriculture in Botswana. Turner, who recently completed a 10-month academic mission as a Hubert Humphrey Fellow, found time to create two bees at Billick's studio before heading back to her native country. She treasures them.
As she was molding them, Turner said she felt "one" with the bees.
Billick, the artist who created the six-foot-long worker bee sculpture that anchors the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, said the Miss Bee Haven project "serves as a response" to the colony collapse disorder (CCD) that is adversely affecting the entire world.
"Our relationship with our bee populations is in danger and in need of attention; bee awareness is our mission," Billick said. "The mission is to identify with bee culture inside the hive, and the bees outside the hive--the field bees that serve as pollinators."
To increase public awareness of honey bees, Billick and Ullman are providing the ceramic bee-making sessions to community organizations, groups, clubs and schools or "basically, anyone who wants to make a bee."
To date, the reaction has been fantastic, Billick said. "It is an educational experience and one that creates heartfelt awareness and appreciation for our smallest agricultural workers, the honey bees."
Some of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program's work, fusing art with science, graces the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. The half-acre bee friendly garden is located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Laidlaw research facility.
More information on setting up workshops to create ceramic bees is available from Billick at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 219-5918 or Ullman at email@example.com.
We captured these photos today of a honey bee nectaring on catmint (genus Nepeta). The bee was moving fast. To blur the wings, we set the shutter speed at 1/640 of a second with an f-stop of 13 and IS0 of 800.
But just how fast can a honey bee fly?
Its wings beat 230 times every second, according to Douglas Altshuler, a researcher at California Institute of Technology who co-authored research, "Short-Amplitude High-Frequency Wing Strokes Determine the Aerodynamics of Honeybee Flight," published in December 2005 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The honey bees have a rapid wing beat," he told LiveScience in an interview published in January 2006. "In contrast to the fruit fly that has one-eightieth the body size and flaps its wings 200 times each second, the much larger honeybee flaps its wings 230 times every second."
"And this was just for hovering," Altshuler said. "They also have to transfer pollen and nectar and carry large loads, sometimes as much as their body mass, for the rest of the colony."
The Hive and the Honey Bee, the "Bible" of beekeeping, indicates that a bee's flight speed averages about 15 miles per hour and they're capable of flying 20 miles per hour.
If they're not carrying nectar, pollen, water or propolis (plant resin), they'll fly much faster!
Honey bees are passionate about passion flowers (Passiflora).
The intricate tropical flower is their private merry-go-round, their favorite hide 'n seek place, their gathering spot.
If you've been around passion flower vines, you know they attract honey bees, carpenter bees and Gulf Fritillary butterflies.
It's a showy flower to be studied, to be admired, to be photographed.
Especially with honey bees circling it.