Undergraduate degree in genetics? Check.
Master’s degree in fine arts? Check.
Scientist and artist? Check.
Such is the case with scientist-artist Donna Billick, who created the “Miss Bee Haven” six-foot bee sculpture in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the University of California, Davis.
Miss Bee Haven?
“I like to play with words,” said Billick, who received both her degrees from UC Davis and then embarked on fusing art with science by teaching classes at UC Davis.
The sculpture, funded by Wells Fargo, graces the half-acre bee friendly garden, located on the Department of Entomology grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.
“The bee sculpture is beautiful and provides the perfect focal point for the garden,” said entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology who oversees the garden. “On top of that it accurately represents a worker bee and provides an educational component as well as an aesthetic one.”
Kimsey, who is master-planning the grand opening celebration of the garden, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, said the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven “is sure to become a campus destination.”
The key goals of the haven, Kimsey said, are to provide a year-around food source for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
It’s quite appropriate that the bee sculpture is beneath an almond tree in the garden. California has some 700,000 thousand acres of almonds; each acre requires two bee hives for pollination.
Billick, who worked on the bee from her Davis studio, Billick Rock Art, is the co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. Billick founded the program in 2006 with entomologist-artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and now associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
A self-described “rock artist,” Billick designed, fabricated and constructed Miss Bee Haven, using rebar, chicken wire, sand, cement, tile, bronze, steel, grout, fiberglass and handmade ceramic pieces. The project took her four months to complete.
“During this entire process, I developed a real in-depth relationship with honey bees,” Billick said. For inspiration and detail, she visited the apiary in back of the Laidlaw facility, read about the functions of bees, and held the thoughts close. “It was not about expressing anything other than the beeness. I have a lot of respect for bees.”
A 35-year artist, she studied with such masters as Bob Arneson, Roy De Forest, Wayne Thiebaud and Manuel Neri.
Her work on the UC Davis campus includes the colorful Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility’s ceramic sign that features DNA symbols and almond blossoms.
Scientist? Check. Artist? Check.
Scientist-artist? Most definitely.
But when a native wild bee such as the Svastra obliqua expurgata, also called "the sunflower bee," forages on a Mexican hat flower, it adds a little gaiety to the scene.
Did we just hear the Jarabe Tapatío or Mexican Hat Dance?
The scarlet red petals of the Mexican hat flower (Ratibida columnifera), droop, leaving plenty of room for dancing on the cone.
This little bee (below) was foraging this week in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis.
Svastra females have dense brushes of hairs on their hind legs and transport pollen dry in these brushes (scopae), says native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Honey bees carry pollen moist on concave hair-fringed pollen baskets (corbiculae).
Then it lands and you realize it's neither.
It's a bee.
The insects buzzing in our catmint last weekend were wool-carder bees, Anthidium manicatum (Linnaeus), as identified by several UC Davis entomologists: Tom Zavortink of the Bohart Museum of Entomology; native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Regarding the carder bee, Zavortink teamed with Sandra Shanks, then of the Bohart Museum, to write a scientific note, "Anthidium manicatum (Linnaeus) (Hymnoptera: Megachilidae in California)," published in the July 2008 edition of the journal Pan-Pacific Entomologist.
"The Palaearctic wool-carder bee Anthidium manicatum (Linnaeus, 1758) was introduced into New York state, presumably from Europe, before 1963 (Jaycox 1967)," Zavortink and Shanks wrote. However, it wasn't detected in California until much later. In 2007, an image of a carder bee from Sunnyvale, Santa Clara County, appeared on the Bug Guide website.
The name, carder bee, comes from its behavior of gathering "down" or "fuzz" from leaves to build its nest.
"Anthidium manicatum builds a linear row of cells, each one being lined and partitioned with cottony down 'carded' from hairy leaves," wrote Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World. "The term 'carder' refers to the teasing out or carding of woollen or cotton fiber with a comblike tool. The female of A. manicatum has five sharp teeth on each jaw and these are her carding tools."
The males are very territorial, the three UC Davis entomologists agreed.
Indeed they are.
The males, about the size of honey bees, buzzed furiously around the catmint last weekend. When they spotted an "intruder," such as a honey bee, they hit it with such force (body slam!) that the victim dropped to the ground.
We also observed carding of the leaves and mating. An Indy-500 male grabbed a female foraging on a catmint blossom.
"It appears that carder bees don't mate in flight like the honey bees do," commented Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Zavortink-Shanks and O'Toole-Raw reported that carder bees prefer the downy leaves of such plants as lamb's ear (Stachys lanata).
By the looks of the activity last weekend in our bee friendly yard, it appears that carder bees are also quite fond of catmint (Nepeta) and sage (salvia).
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Without the honey bee's pollination services, there would be no peppers, such as the ones that administrative assistant Nancy Dullum of the UC Davis Department of Entomology is holding. Bees pollinate one-third of the American diet.
So today, on the eve of National Honey Bee Awareness Day, it's time to pay tribute to the insect that makes it all happen.
The goals of National Honey Bee Awareness Day: to promote and advance beekeeping, to educate the public about honey bees and beekeeping, and to engage the public about the related environmental concerns.
The next major celebration involving the honey bee is the grand opening of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 11 on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
The key goals of the garden, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted last fall, are to provide bees with a year-around food source for the Laidlaw Facility bees, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
The event will include garden tours, hands-on demonstrations, educational speakers, and children's activities.
What's planted in the haven?
Fruits, vegetables, herbs and ornamental flowers.
Among the trees: almond, apple, persimmon and plum.
Among the ornamentals: salvia, seaside daisy, purple coneflower, Mexican hat flower and roses.
Herbs? They include basil, oregano, mint and rosemary.
Fruits and vegetables? Look for strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, watermelon, artichoke, broccoli and eggplant.
And peppers? Does the haven have peppers?
Definitely! They're not ready for Peter Piper to pick, though.
On the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, something as simple as a freshly watered potted plant will do.
Without water to ventilate and cool the hive, the wax inside an overheated hive on a hot day will melt and the brood will die.
However, if you see a honey bee collecting water, you might also see a European paper wasp (Polistes dominula).
These wasps need water to mix with their saliva and wood fibers to build their nests (right). They also bring back water for the offspring and to cool their nests.
Honey bees stand on the lip of the container or on rocks or sediment. They don't like getting their feet wet. Not so with wasps.