How often do you see a honey bee "standing upright" to reach nectar?
"Well, I guess I could just buzz up there and grab some nectar! But why not stay right here where I am and just s-t-r-e-t-c-h like a giraffe to get it?"
This bee, foraging on a Photinia blossom, almost looked like an athlete in training. Was she stretching to "warm up?" Was she stretching to improve performance? Flexibility? Mobility?
Me thinks she was just taking a short cut to the sweet stuff and being a little territorial as other bees buzzed around her.
Our honey bee will return to the hive where workers will process the nectar into honey. Humans will get some of it, too.
If you'd like to sample honey--and mix with entomologists--mark your calendar for Saturday, April 22 and "bee" at Briggs Hall for the annual honey tasting, just one part of the 200 some events at the 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Day. It's an all-day campuswide open house aimed to educate, inform and entertain.
Have you checked to see what's foraging on your early spring blooms?
Our cherry laurels (Prunus laurocerasus) are blooming and the Andrena (mining) bees are zooming. These fast-moving bees are solitary ground-nesting bees that are early spring bees, according to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. The males emerge first.
"Females emerge several days later and, with only a few short weeks to live, waste no time with polite introductions," write and Thorp (who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley) and UC Berkeley professor Gordon Frankie in California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists. The book is also co-authored by UC Berkeley affiliates: entomologist/photographer Rollin E. Coville and botany specialist Barbara Ertter.
"Mating is first on their agenda, followed by a quick meal of pollen to build up their ovaries," Thorp and Frankie point out. "They then dig or forage for materials to construct their nests, and for food for their offspring. At the end of the short flight season, the adults die and the new generation's life cycle continues inside the nest."
Thorp identified the bees below as two females: Andrena candida and A. nigrocaerulea. He and several colleagues teach The Bee Course, "an annual workshop for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees." It's held at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz., and this year's dates are Aug. 21-Aug. 31.
"Most North American Andrena species are black, dull metallic blue, or green and moderately hairy, with bands of pale hair on their abdomens," according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. "Females have large, velvety facial depressions (foveae) that look like eyebrows and large pollen-collecting hairs (scopae) on the upper part of their hind legs, seemingly in their 'armpits.' Despite a variety of striking colorations, Andrenan species are difficult to tell part."
If you have sandy soil and shrubs, that's ideal for them. You'll be the landlord and they'll be your tenants. "They nest in the ground, typically in sandy soil and often near or under shrubs. The nest entrance is usually marked by a small mound (tumulus) of soil."--Xerces Society.
Andrena is the largest genus in the family Andrenidae, with more than 1300 species, and about 261 in California. They occur nearly worldwide (Americas, Eurasia and the Old World tropics). The tiniest of the Andrena are only 7 millimeters long.
You may not see them. They're as tiny as they are fast, and they don't stop for photographs!
Sometimes you get lucky...
All is still not right in the bee world. And all is not right with science. Its future is troubling.
That's why it's so important to "March for Science" on Saturday, April 22. All eyes are focused on the national March for Science in Washington, D.C., and the satellite marches in solidarity.
We're glad to see that the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA), a non-partisan scientific society founded in 1889, is taking an active role by naming its members "point persons" for the various marches.
At the Sacramento March for Science, UC Extension entomologist emerita Mary Lou Flint of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is ESA's point person. “It is a really important time to be supporting science and scientists in the United States," she said. "This march is nonpartisan and fully sponsored by the ESA.”
In Sacramento, participants will gather at 10 a.m. at Southside Park, 2115 6th St. for a pre-march program. At noon they will begin marching to the Capitol Mall, 1315 10th St. The post-march program will take place there from 1 to 4 p.m.
Flint, a UC Davis graduate who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, retired in June 2014 as an Extension entomologist and as a leader in the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Program: she served as the associate director for Urban and Community IPM.
On April 22, she will be there with other scientists, out of their labs, and into the streets. And joining thousands of others, all marching for science.
The guiding principles of ESA "recognize that the discipline of entomology is global, that all of its members must be able to participate fully in the organization, and that entomologists must collaborate with government and the public to maximize the positive benefits insect science offers to the world," said ESA in a press release. "The stated goals and principles of the March for Science align closely with these strategic principles of ESA.”
ESA is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Its members are affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, and hobbyists.
ESA has created a web page to share information on how members can participate in the March for Science in Washington, D.C., or at satellite events around the nation and the world. ESA is also planning a pre-March for Science webinar on April 19 at 2 p.m. (EDT). Speakers from ESA, Lewis-Burke Associates, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will discuss the logistics of the March for Science, best practices for non-partisan advocacy on behalf of science, and advice for productively engaging with the media during and after the March.
In addition, ESA members and others can use an ESA template to print their own "Why I March for Science" sign. They are encouraged to take a selfie with it, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. "Why I March" pictures will be shared on social media in the days leading up to the event.
The March for Science is not only intended to raise awareness, but to celebrate science and to support and safeguard the scientific community. The goals include advocating for open, inclusive, and accessible science, affirming scientific research as an essential part of a working democracy and, in general, supporting scientists.
As the Sacramento March for Science web page points out: "Recent policy changes have called science-based information into question. Science is not a partisan issue. Science is fact-based and provides objective results. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted!"
"We come from all walks of life. We are of different races, religions, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, political perspectives, and nationalities - and we are united through our respect for science and our belief that it is crucial to the health and success of our society and our planet. Our diverse opinions, perspectives, and ideas are critical to the scientific process and are our greatest strength."
If you live in the Sacramento area, check out these related links, and then join the march to the state capitol:
How about "getting the red in?"
Have you ever seen a honey bee packing white, pink, blue, lavender, yellow, orange or red pollen? Have you ever seen the colorful diversity of pollen grains gracing their hives? Stunning.
Take red. It's a warning color in nature--think lady beetles, aka ladybugs. Predators know they don't taste good so they learn to leave them alone.
A chunk of red pollen on a honey bee, however, looks like a sun-ripened strawberry.
Lately we've been seeing honey bees with red pollen foraging on our Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas. Problem is, lavender yields a pale whitish pollen, not red. Last summer, the red came from the adjacent rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). It's not blooming now, however, so, they're drawing that brilliant red pollen elsewhere. And stopping by the Spanish lavender for nectar, their flight fuel.
Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says "I have not observed honey bees collecting pollen from lavender, but have seen them with pollen loads from other flowers stopping for a sip of nectar...especially honey bees that have been foraging on plants that do not produce nectar like California poppies, and lupines."
"English lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and most other members of the mint family have pale pollen rarely collected by honey bees, but these garden herbs are all great nectar resources," he says. "It is common to see honey bees on these plants with the wrong color pollen as they forage the herbs for nectar."
We're waiting for the cilantro to bloom. Then the bees will "be in the pink," so to speak. Pink pollen.
Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about honey bees, three UC Davis-affiliated events await you.
Saturday, May 6: The inaugural California Honey Festival, an event coordinated by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, will be held within a four-block area in downtown Woodland. Free and open to the public, it will include presentations, music, mead speakeasies, honey-tasting, vendors, bee friendly gardening, and a kids' zone.
Sunday, May 7: The third annual UC Davis Bee Symposium, sponsored by the Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will take place in the UC Davis Conference Center. Keynote speaker is Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash. Registration is underway.
Tuesday through Friday, Sept. 5-8: The Western Apicultural Society, founded at UC Davis, will return to UC Davis for its 40th annual meeting. It was co-founded by Norm Gary (it was his brainchild), Eric Mussen and Becky Westerdahl at what is now the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. Mussen, now Extension apiculturist emeritus, is serving his sixth term as president since 1984. WAS serves the educational needs of beekeepers from 13 states, plus parts of Canada.
You're on a winning streak when you spot a gray hairstreak.
No, not the streak in Grandpa's hair--the streak on Grandma's flowers.
It's the gray hairstreak butterfly, Strymon mellinus, also known as the common hairstreak.
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says the gray hairstreak does well in towns and cities in the Central Valley. "It is multiple-brooded and has a very long flight season, at sea level from February to November, but rarely seen before June in the mountains where it does not appear able to overwinter," he says on his website. "Early spring specimens are small and very dark with reduced red markings; "albinos," with the red replaced by pale yellow, occur mostly in the spring brood. There is much minor variation. Adults visit an immense variety of flowers, both wild and cultivated. They are particularly addicted to Heliotrope and white-flowered Apiaceae."
Lately we've been seeing the gray hairstreak on our Spanish lavender, although it also frequents mallows, white clover, alfalfa and other plants.
If you're into hairstreaks, be sure to check out the Green Hairstreak Butterfly Festival, a Nature-in-the-City event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 15 at the Hoover Middle School, 2290 14th Ave., San Francisco.
We're assured that the Green Hairstreak Butterfly Festival has landed. Or maybe fluttered down...
"Spring is back and so is our local butterfly, the green hairstreak," festival organizers said. "In 2006, the community of District 7 came together to save this butterfly from disappearing. Habitat restoration and community stewardship were our main tools. Now we have a robust corridor, or butterfly highway, where we can find this nickel-sized, brightly green butterfly flying from Hawk Hill to Rocky Outcrop to the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps!"
It's a family event. Plans call for an outdoor classroom "to teach you about the butterfly, how to find it, and how to help maintain its unique habitat for all local pollinators. In addition, there will be contests, prizes, artwork, hands-on activities, access to local nature groups and plants, baked goods and crafts to take home." (Read about the Green Hairstreak corridor.)
The gray hairstreak, Strymon mellinus, and the green hairstreak, Callophrys viridis, belong to the same family Lycaenidae, which includes more than 6000 species worldwide or about 30 percent of the known butterfly species, according to Wikipedia.
Strymon, the genus name, is derived from the Strymon River in Bulgaria and Greece; the species name, melinus, means gray in Greek. The green hairstreak? Its genus name, Callophyrs, is Greek for "beautiful eyebrows" and its species name, viridis, is Latin for green.
Check out Shapiro's web page on Lycaenidae, to see other gossamer-wing family members in the Central Valley...and maybe boost your winning streak./span>