"Stop and smell the roses."
How many times have you heard that? It's usually from someone urging us to slow down, to savor life, and to pay attention to the pleasures.
Like fragrant roses.
Honey bees seem to be particularly fond of the butterfly rose, also known as the China rose (Rosa mutabilis), a deciduous shrub that can grow up to six feet high and spread five feet across. It's a long flowering plant, especially important to bees when they emerge from their hives after a long cold winter and begin to forage for food.
The butterfly rose, so named because its blossoms resemble butterflies, is cherished for its ever-changing flowers, which turn from yellowish/orange to pinkish/red to a coppery red.
Stop and smell the roses? Yes, but also look for the beauty in the bees.
(These photos were taken at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden and demonstration garden on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. The garden, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is open to the public from dawn to dusk for free, self-guided tours. Plans call for guided tours, for a nominal charge, starting March 1. Contact Christine Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The bush germander (Teucrium fruticans) is definitely a great fall-winter plant that's a magnet for bees. Just look at the bees that frequent the germander in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road at UC Davis.
As soon as the temperature rises to a sunny 50 or 55 (good bee-flying weather), the honey bees head over to the haven from the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Last Saturday's visit to the haven yielded an "out-to-lunch" bunch that included a dozen honey bees in the germander and one syrphid fly (aka flower fly or hover fly). Bumble bee aficionado Gary Zamzow, one of the volunteers in the haven, found something better: A bumble bee, a queen Bombus melanopygus or black-tailed bumble bee, foraging in the germander.
The germander bush is one of several plants blooming in the haven in the dead of winter, according to Missy Borel, haven volunteer and program manager of the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis. Among the others blooming or just finishing a bloom:
- Autumn sage (Salvia greggii)
- Blanket flower (Gallardia)
- Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens)
- Butterfly rose (Rosa mutabilis)
- Catmint (Nepeta)
- Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii)
- Coreopsis (Coreopsis)
- Red hot poker (Kniphofia)
- Dwarf plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides)
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Betty Rollins’ )
- Lavender (Lavandula)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus)
- Sage (salvia)
- Seaside daisies (Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick')
"Honey bees in California will seek forage on warm sunny days in California," Thorp noted. "Some Asteraceae and mint family flowers will continue blooming and provide some food for honey bees, but they primarily rely on their stored honey to get them through the winter."
At first glance, we thought "Strawberry blossoms!"
Not strawberries, though.
The white-floral ground cover at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park is Sutera cordata or bacopa, as identified by Missy Gable, program manager of the California Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of California, Davis.
As historians know, the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park was the site of the state capital back in 1853-1854. Then Sacramento claimed the title.
And bacopa? "I’ve used bacopa quite a bit in hanging baskets but have honestly never tried it in the landscape," Gable said. "It’s a pretty short lived perennial and in my experience dies at the first frost BUT it’s an awesome bloomer!"
That it is. We spotted the bacopa the first day of the year. It was a lukewarm 55 degrees in Benicia but the honey bees were out, out of their dark hives and into the sunlight to start gathering nectar and pollen for their colony.
Interestingly enough, both the honey bee and bacopa are natives of Africa. European colonists brought the honey bee to what is now the United States in 1622 (to the Jamestown colony, Va.)
Honey bees did not arrive in California until 1853 (the same year that Benicia claimed the state capital). California's first beekeeper, Christopher A. Shelton, established a 12-colony apiary just north of San Jose. According to the UC ANR book, Beekeeping in California, authored primarily by UC Davis bee scientists: "Of the 12, only one survived, but it cast three swarms that summer and by 1858 there were at least 150 colonies directly descended from the Shelton hive."
Bacopa could be another suitable plant for the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden that doubles as demonstration garden on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. Missy Gable plays a key role in making the garden as beautiful as it is.
Meanwhile it's Benicia, bees and bacopa! And awesome bloomer!
An international research team has been researching honey bee pollination of almonds in the three-county area of Yolo, Colusa and Stanislaus since 2008, and what these scientists have discovered is astounding.
The bottom line: Honey bees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other species of bees are present.
The research, “Synergistic Effects of Non-Apis Bees and Honey Bees for Pollination Services,”published in the Jan. 9th edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society, could prove invaluable in increasing the pollination effectiveness of honey bees, as demand for their pollination service grows.
So when honey bees are foraging with blue orchard bees and wild bees (such as bumble bees and carpenter bees), the honey bee behavior changes, resulting in more effective crop pollination, says lead author Claire Brittain, a former post-doctoral fellow from Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany and now associated with the Neal Williams lab at the University of California, Davis.
“These findings highlight the importance of conserving pollinators and the natural habitats they rely on,” Brittain says. “Not only can they play an important direct role in crop pollination, but we also show that they can improve the pollination service of honey bees in almonds.”
Where did this project originate? In the UC Berkeley lab of conservation biologist/professor Claire Kremen, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation (Genius) Award. Also an associate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, Kremen works closely with the department's bee scientists at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Brittain, Kremen, Klein and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology at UC Davis (he joined the team in 2010), co-authored the research.
“This is one of our first demonstrations on how to increase the efficiency of honey bee pollination through diversification of pollinators,” Williams said, pointing out that “With increasing demands for pollination-dependent crops globally, and continued challenges that limit the supply of honey bees, such strategies to increase pollination efficiency offer exciting potential for more sustainable pollination in the future.”
Yes. California’s almond acreage is rapidly increasing. Seems like only a few years ago it was 600,000 acres and now it totals 800,000. Each acre requires two bee hives for pollination, but honey bee-health problems have sparked new concern over pollination services.
As Kremen says: “Almond is a $3 billion industry in California. Our study shows that native bees, through their interactions with honey bees, increase the pollination efficiency of honey bees--the principal bee managed for almond pollination--and thus the amount of fruit set.”
What's next? “The project is ongoing and we plan to investigate further the mechanism behind the increased effectiveness of honey bees when other bees are present,” Brittain says. “We are also going to be looking at how to enhance floral resources for wild bees in almond orchards.”
Meanwhile, watch Professor Klein's UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar, presented in February 2010, when she lectured on “Can Wild Pollinators Contribute, Augment and Complement Almond Pollination in California." It drew widespread interest and a capacity crowd. Click on this link: https://admin.na4.acrobat.com/_a841422360/p37649788/ to hear more.
Talk about an early bloomer!
At least one almond tree was blooming in California on the first day of the year. In the Benicia State Recreation Area, to be exact.
We spotted the almond tree flowering on Jan. 1 near the entrance to the state park. The delicate white blossoms poked through a rusty fence as they were dignitaries at a meet-and-greet reception.
From the looks of the blossoms, the buds had probably opened in late December, maybe shortly after Christmas.
We're accustomed to seeing wild almond trees flowering in mid- to late January as we drive along Interstate 80, Solano County. But not this early! Jan. 1?
California's commercial almond trees usually begin blooming around Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. Our state has about 800,000 acres of almonds, each acre requires two hives for pollination. The buzzing bees are trucked here from all over the country. Indeed, California's $3 billion-almond industry--the state's largest export--is pure gold.
Meanwhile, it's too bad that there's no contest for finding the first almond tree blooming. Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution at UC Davis, sponsors a contest for anyone collecting the first cabbage white butterfly in the three-county area of Yolo, Solano and Sacramento. The prize he offers is a pitcher of beer.
Maybe there should be beer for a bud?
There's only one thing wrong with the bucolic scenes below: no foraging bees. But there will be.