Mother's Day, insect-style, dawned like any other day. In our back yard, golden honey bees foraged in the lavender and those ever-so-tiny sweat bees visited the rock purslane.
The honey bees? Those gorgeous Italians.
The sweat bees? Genus Lasioglossum, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. He figures the female sweat bee (below) may be L. mellipes, which is brownish toward the tips of the hind legs.
A trip to Benicia yielded a photo of a ladybug chasing aphids. It was almost comical. A fat aphid appeared to be playing "King of the Hill" while other aphids sucked contentedly on plant juices, unaware of pending predators.
While the aphids wreaked havoc on a very stressed Escallonia (fast-growing hedge in the family Escalloniaceae), the ladybugs, aka lady beetles, wreaked havoc on some very stressed aphids.
After all, "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts."
First the buds, then the blossoms, then the bees.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre, bee-friendly garden planted in the fall of 2009 next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is, in one word—spectacular.
The strawberries planted in the haven are in various stages of growth: buds, blossoms, immature fruit and now ripe fruit.
The bees did it.
It's a good time to view the garden, which is open from dawn to dusk every day. There's no admission charge.
You'll see art work; assorted fruits, vegetables and herbs; ornamental plants; and insects! The garden provides the Laidlaw honey bees with a year-around food source, raises public awareness about the plight of honey bees, encourages visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own, and serves as a research site.
Nero may have fiddled while Rome burned, but the honey bees just kept on working.
We recently visited an apiary in Glenn County, and the honey bees were all over the fiddlenecks in patches adjacent to the hives. A springtime scene of golden flowers and buzzing bees. An artist's dream...a photographer's delight...
The fiddleneck (genus Amsinckia) is kissing cousins with borage and forget-me-nots in the family Boraginacae. The flower-laden stems curl over like the head of a fiddle or violin in concert. And when a honey bee forages on the fiddleneck, the stems bend even more.
I think there's a country song there somewhere. It bends, but doesn't break. Tune in, tune out. It's livestock's poison but bee's nectar.
Fiddle de-dee (good!) for the bees...fiddle de-dum (bad!) for the livestock.
That old saying, "Be all you can be," should be changed to "Bee all you can bee."
Have you ever seen festooning in a bee hive, when the bees link their legs together to perform tasks?
"They festoon when they're producing a lot of wax and drawing new comb," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Sometimes bees will build comb in bee space, and when the beekeeper lifts out a frame and scraps away the excess comb with a hive tool, the bees may festoon.
Such was the case yesterday at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Faciity at UC Davis.
If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, does that apply to bees?
One of the highlights of Susan Cobey's class on "The Art of Queen Bee Rearing" is a visit to commercial queen bee breeders in Northern California.
Cobey is a bee breeder-geneticist at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, and Washington State University.
It was raining. Did we say it was raining? It was pouring.
When it rains, the virgin queens and drones don't fly out to mate. During her maiden flight, each virgin queen will mate with 12 to 25 drones, and then she'll return to her hive, where she will spend the rest of her life laying eggs. She'll lay about 1000 eggs a day during the busy season, or about 2000 eggs a day during peak season.
Rain stops the mating. So do cold temperatures. The thermometer has to read at least 70 degrees for the mating flights. Otherwise, it's a no-go. A no-fly day.
The process from egg to larva to pupa to adult is almost miraculous. It involves using a grafting tool to remove the tiny, almost microscopic egg from the comb and transferring it to a queen cup. From there, it's back into the hive where the worker bees tend to the queen cells, feeding them royal jelly.
This month, however, proved to be one of the most rainy months on record. It rained nearly every day.
Many of the queens-to-be won't be.