Not all bumble bees are primarily black.
Take the Bombus flavifrons.
We spotted a male Bombus flavifrons nectaring on Centaurea montana, aka perennial cornflower or mountain cornflower, recently in Mill Valley. It didn't look like many of the other common bumble bees, such as the yellow-faced bumble bee and the black-tailed bumble bee.
It was as yellow as a baby chick.
It's just one of 20,000 species of bees found globally, and one of 49 bumble bee (Bombus) species found in the United States and one of more than 250 species of bumble bees found worldwide.
Sometimes we overlook something we're not ready to see.
It's called the "Pride of Madeira" but don't let that name fool you.
True, it's the pride of the Portuguese island of Madeira, where it's endemic, but it's also the joy of Bodega Bay.
"What's that purplish spiked flower that grows somewhat like a yucca or a tower of jewels?" visitors ask. "It's all over the Bodega area."
It's not a yucca, which belongs to the agave family, Agavaceae. It's an Echium candicans, a member of the family Boraginaceae. It's a kissing cousin of Echium wildpretti, or the tower of jewels.
Last Sunday visitors to the Sonoma County coastal town enjoyed the warmth of a spring day and those spectacular blue-to-the-bone-and-purple-as-you-please blooms. An extra bonus: an occasional bumble bee.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified the bumble bee below as Bombus melanopygus.
This little forager found the Pride of Madeira and the Joy of Bodega Bay.
Bring on the asters.
When you visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, you'll see Donna Billick's six-foot-long bee sculpture, Miss Bee Haven, "nectaring" a ceramic purple dome aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).
Appropriately enough, planted next to the sculpture are the aster's cousins: purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). They're all from the same aster family (Asteraceae).
Ah, the aster family...When the purple coneflowers bloomed last summer and fall, they drew scores of honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees and carpenter bees in a blazing show of diversity.
Diversity is part of the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven's reason for being. It's intended to provide the Laidlaw honey bees with a year-around food source, raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees and other pollinators, encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own, and serve as a research site.
Want to visit what the pollinators are visiting? The haven, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, is open year-around, dawn to dusk, for self-guided tours. Admission is free.
There you can bee-hold Miss Bee Haven and the seasonal blooms.
Now, bring on the asters!
"A" is for anemone, "B" is for bumble bee and "C" is for coneflower.
A visit to the Oregon state capitol grounds in Salem last Tuesday found scores of yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) working the anemones and purple coneflowers.
While some bumble bee species are endangered or instinct, not the yellow-faced bumble bees. Let's hope they never are.
The anemone, a member of the buttercup family, is Greek for "daughter of the wind." The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a member of the aster family; Echinos is Greek for "hedgehog."
A look at the spiky flowers will tell you why.
It rocks because it's drought-tolerant and it rocks when honey bees and bumble bees visit it.
And it's pretty. The Penstemon x Mexicali "Red Rocks" is a white-throated cherry-pink flower.
One look at it and you know it's a member of the snapdragon/foxglove family (Plantaginaceae). As kids, we used to slip foxglove flowers on our fingers and pretend we were wearing gloves.
With "Red Rocks," however, you'll have to compete with the bees. Last weekend we spotted honey bees and bumble bees (yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii) foraging on our newly acquired Penstemon.