With your camera!
If you're into pollinators, plants and photography, and want to share your work nationally, here's a new project for you.
Bay Area native bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin, who launched the Wild Bee Gardens app (with identification assistance from consultants, including native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis), alerted us to the contest.
It is "designed to raise awareness about the dazzling diversity of North America's native bees and other pollinators," she said, "and to engage residents from coast to coast in the vital and rewarding business of creating a continental tapestry of wild bee gardens,"
CFS, headquartered in Washington, D.C., with branch offices in San Francisco, Honolulu and Portland (Ore.) describes itself as "a national non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy organization working to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS also educates consumers concerning the definition of organic food and products."
Judges will choose numerous winners, and each will receive a free Wild Bee Gardens app to keep, or give as a gift, "so that you can share your enthusiasm for wild bees and their gardens with your friends and families," Ets-Hokin said. Winners also will receive a pollinator swag bag from CFS.
Want to learn more about the submission guidelines and selection criteria? Access http://centerforfoodsafety-wildbees.tumblr.com . The deadline to submit photos is April 17.
If you can't identify the pollinator, not to worry. After the judges select the winners, Thorp will identify the bees. He's a co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday), along with colleagues Gordon Frankie, Rollin Coville and Barbara Ertter. Thorp also co-authored Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide (Princeton University Press).
Speaking of bumble bees, they seem to be quite scarce this year. We saw our first black-tailed bumble bee (Bombus melanopygus) of the season on March 15 on Spanish lavender in Vacaville.
The vibrant colors of Cosmos, an annual flower with the same common name as its genus, are spectacular. But we especially like the showstopping pink Cosmos with its bright yellow center.
Well, sometimes, they have a green center--that's when an ultra green sweat bee is foraging.
The female Agapostemon texanus is solid green, from head to thorax to abdomen, while the male of the species has a solid green head and thorax. It begs to differ with its abdomen; it's striped yellow and black, as if an artist ran out of green paint.
Agapostemon texanus is one of the bees featured in California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, the work of UC Berkeley-affiliated scientists Gordon W. Frankie, Robbin W. Thorp, Rollin E. Coville, and Barbara Ertter. Thorp, a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, so there's the Berkeley angle!
If you want to learn more about native bees, check out Native Bees Are a Rich Natural Resource in Urban California Gardens, published by Frankie, Thorp, Coville and Ertter (and others) in California Agriculture.
Another good source is the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, directed by Professor Frankie. It has an easy to remember URL: http://www.helpabee.org/.
Meanwhile, how green is your Cosmos?
Ever watched Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) foraging on salvia?
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, recently noticed a flurry of carpenter bees in the grape-scented sage, Salvia melissodora, in the Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden on Bee Biology Road.
Native bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin of the Bay Area gifted the plant to him. It is now thriving in the department's half-acre bee friendly garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. Planted in 2009, the garden is located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus.
When carpenter bees forage on the sage, they receive "pollen deposits" or "pollen caps" on their heads. "A perfect placement spot for pollen transfer from flower to flower," Thorp commented. "It also produces a striking orangish patch on the face of the all black bees."
The female Valley carpenter beesare solid black, while the males (which Thorp calls "teddy bear bees"), are green-eyed blonds.
As for the Salvia melissodora, the name "melissodora" originates from the Greek "Melissa" (honey bee) and "odora" (fragrance).
Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 2. That's when the Department of Entomology and Nematology will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the garden installation. Free and open to the public, the open house will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. UC Davis bee scientists will be there to help you observe and identify the native bees and provide information on honey bees. Download the flier for more information.
Thanks to a generous gift from Häagen-Dazs, the garden came to life during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project.
A Sausalito team--landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki--won the design competition. The judges were Professor Kimsey; founding garden manager Missy Borel (now Missy Borel Gable), then of the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) at UC Davis and now director of the statewide UC Master Gardeners; David Fujino, executive director, CCHU; Aaron Majors, construction department manager, Cagwin & Dorward Landscape Contractors, based in Novato; Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager, Häagen-Dazs ice cream; Heath Schenker, professor of environmental design, UC Davis; Jacob Voit, sustainability manager and construction project manager, Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Others who played a key role in the founding and "look" of the garden included the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, co-founded and co-directed by the duo of entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now Department of Entomology and Nematology), and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick. The ceramic mosaic art is the work of UC Davis Entomology 1 students, taught by Ullman and Billick, and artists from the community. Billick's stunning ceramic bee sculpture of a worker bee, "Miss Bee Haven," anchors the garden. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden. Later the California chapter of the Daughters of the America Revolution provided a much-welcomed donation. (Read more about the history of the bee garden here). Chris Casey succeeded Melissa Borel as the manager of garden.
Now five years have come and gone, and generations of bees have come and gone. Life is good.
For me, it's zero, zilch, nada.
They're out there, though. Talent insect photographer Allan Jones of Davis, shared some of his images that he captured this year.
Bumble bees, however, are declining throughout the world, and it would be "a frightening thought" if bumble bees were to go from declining to extinct, said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
He and fellow bumble bee authority Sheila Colla of Eastern Canada are the co-coordinators of the North American (United States and Canada) Bumble Bee Species Conservation Workgroup for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Thorp and Colla are featured in a newly released Radio-Canada video on declining bumble bees.
The six-minute version was broadcast last weekend. You'll hear the news reporter speaking French and Thorp and Colla speaking English as they talk about the declining bee population:
Bee breeder-geneticist Michael "Kim" Fondrk of UC Davis, now retired, is featured in a segment on honey bee instrumental insemination:
A one-hour show, also broadcast last weekend, and more about honey bees, is at
It's a given: Honey bees love lupine.
We watched them buzzing around a flower patch of blue (lupine) and gold (California poppies) today along Hopkins Road, University of California, Davis, west of the central campus.
Those are Aggie colors: blue and gold. And those are Aggie bees, from the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, on Bee Biology Road.
Speaking of bees, the Bohart Museum of Entomology is hosting an open house, themed "Pollination Nation," from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 14 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane.
“It will be about bees, bees, bees,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis. The event is free and open to the public. Visitors can converse with bee specialists and view displays of bees from all over the world. Family activities are also planned.
Of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California. The most recognizable, of course, is the honey bee, but it is not a native. European colonists brought it here (Jamestown colony) in 1622. The honey bee didn't arrive in California until 1853.
Bees play a profound role in shaping the world we live in, but many species remain strangers to us, according to native pollinator specialist and Bohart Museum associate Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and a co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
Copies of the California Bees and Blooms (Heyday Books) and Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton Press), also co-authored by Thorp, will be available in the gift shop.
“Nature has programmed bees to build nests and supply their young with nutritious pollen and nectar, and their unique methods for collecting these resources are fascinating to observe, the authors wrote. "Their lives are dictated by season, weather and access to preferred flower types and nesting habitat.”