It's "Orange October" for the San Francisco Giants, who just defeated the Detroit Tigers in the opening game of the World Series.
But over at the Luther Burbank's Gold Ridge Experiment Farm at 7781 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, it's Blue October.
It's delightful to see the honey bees foraging in the sky-blue borage (Borago officinalis), aka starflower and bee bread.
Burbank (1849-1926), a noted plant breeder, must have enjoyed the bees there, too. You can almost feel his presence as you walk along the paths, rimmed with more than 250 plant specimens.
His widow, Elizabeth Waters Burbank (1888-1977) donated 15 acres of their 18-acre farm to a senior housing development corporation and then gifted the remainder to the city of Sebastopol for historical preservation. Administered by the Western Sonoma County Historical Society, the farm is open to the public. There's no admission, but donations are accepted. You can also buy a few plants there.
As for borage, it's used as a salad herb and as a dessert garnish. It's also been used for medicinal purposes and for seed oil. Photographers love to capture the colors--the white, prickly hairs ghosting the spectacular blue blossoms.
When you visit the Gold Ridge Experiment Farm, though, you know the borage is for the bees. The nectar-rich blossoms are theirs and theirs alone.
Honey bees on blanket flowers (Gaillardia).
Honey bees on Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia).
The Girls of Autumn....not unlike The Boys of Summer...
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, emphasizes that backyard gardeners should plant bee friendly flowers for all the seasons.
'Limited plantings of backyard, or even acres, of flowers will greatly improve the possibility of enhancing the native bee population in the area," Mussen says. "However, each honey bee colony requires an acre equivalent of forage on a daily basis, all during its active season. This seems to be pretty hard to accomplish, but honey bees will fly up to four miles from the hive in any compass direction to get food. That is an area of 50 square miles in which to find that acre equivalent."
G. H. Vansell, author of the University of California's treasured 1941 bulletin, "Nectar and Pollen Plants of California," writes that "six of the most important sources of nectar in California are the sages, alfalfa, orange, wild buckwheats, star thistle and Christmas berry; of these, the sages, wild buckwheats and Christmas berry are native." (Read this book online in openlibrary.org.)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, has singled out some of the best native plants for bees. The information, gleaned his own experience and from Vansell's list, appears on the website of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
And if you want to look up individual plants, Thorp urges you to access Calflora (UC Berkeley).
Good advice and a good way to help the bees!
When I was teaching photography, I encouraged my students to go for the angles--from a bug's eye view to a bird's eye view. Holding a camera chest-high or at eye level renders the "same-o, same o" photos.
Yet another creative way to see the world is through a fisheye lens. With its 180-degree ultra-wide view,it grants a whole new perspective.
American physicist/inventor Robert W. Wood coined the term, "fisheye," in 1906, according to Wikipedia. He imagined "how a fish would see an ultra-wide hemispherical view from beneath the water (a phenomenon known as Snell's window)."
What does the raised bed of Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) in the Häagen-Honey Bee Haven at the University of California, Davis, look like with a fisheye lens?
Colorful, disorted, startling, intriguing.
Meanwhile, the volunteers who tend the pollinator garden every Friday morning are adding the finishing touches for the public open house, set Saturday afternoon, Sept. 15.
It's part of the Bohart Museum of Entomology's two concurrent open houses, themed "Flower Lovers: the Bees." Both will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 15. One is at the museum itself at 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Lane, and the other, at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
They are free and open to the public.
The museum will showcase bee specimens from around the world, and offer crafts activities. At the haven, plans call for a focus on honey bees, native bees, beekeeping, garden tours, and crafts activities. And a focus on the permanent art in the garden, the spectacular work of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
Saturday's activities at the haven also will include a recognition ceremony at 1:30 p.m. for Derek Tully, 17, of Davis. He will be honored for his Eagle Scout project, building a fence around the half-acre garden. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis, will preside.
It's a good day to bring a camera! But then, isn't every day a good day to bring a camera?
We can all learn from the honey bees.
Worker bees--sisters--are like feeding machines. They not only feed each other, but feed the queen and their brothers, the drones.
It's a marvelous sight to see, nectar being passed from one bee to another.
Honey bee expert Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and a beekeeper for more than six decades, says it well in his newly published book: Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
Gary points out that "efficient communication is the fabric of social behavior. It enables the thousands of bees in a colony to function almost as one organism--sometimes referred to as a super- or supra-organism, in which individual bees are compared to the individual cells of an organism."
Food sharing inside a hive, he writes, is "dynamic and continuous."
"A hungry bee says, in her own special way, Can you spare some food? If the behavioral answer is yes, the donor bee spreads her mandibles and discharges a droplet of honey or nectar from her honey stomach onto her mouthparts."
The hungry bee, Gary relates, "senses the food, extends her strawlike proboscis, and sucks up the food."
It's share and share alike.
Too bad the human race doesn't operate as a super organism.
Talk about aggression. Talk about bullying. Talk about power maneuvers.
Ever seen male European wool carder bees (Anthidium manicutum) defend their territory? Ever seen them chase away other pollinators while they're hunting for prospective mates?
We've seen them target and bodyslam carpenter bees, alfalfa butterflies, leafcutter bees, sweat bees and honey bees while they're nectaring such blossoms as catmint, salvia and lamb's ear.
"Indeed, male wool carder bees are pretty aggressive in their hunt for females and in defense of their territories," commented native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Once the male carder bee spots a female of his own species, he quickly races up to mate with her. He is aggressive with her, too.
The wool carder bee, so named because the female "cards" or removes plant fuzz to line her nest, is a native of Europe. The species was introduced to the United States (New York) in 1963, and was first identified in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
So, it's a relatively newcomer engaging in old ways.
Fact is, the European wool carder bee and the honey bee grew up together in the Old World and now they're realigning in the New World. (European colonists brought the honey bee to America--Jamestown colony--in 1662.)
Last weekend we watched a particularly aggresive male European wool carder bee target a honey bee while she was nectaring catmint (Nepeta). He hovered in mid-air like a helicopter and then suddenly attacked. The force of the impact toppled him over. Then, she, too, collapsed from the blow.
She dropped through the catmint leaves and lingered there for a moment before cautiously emerging. Whoa! What was that? Then she quickly buzzed off.
Undaunted, the male circled where she'd been, looking for any sign of movement.
There will be another time.