Visiting entomologist May Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, this morning stopped by the haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, to see the bee activity.
Joining her were Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen; bee scientist Brian Johnson, assistant professor of entomology, and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, all of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The garden, planted in the fall of 2009, is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is open year around, from dawn to dusk and maintained by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Berenbaum, who will become the fifth woman president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America in 2016, saw honey bees foraging on pomegranate and flowering artichoke blossoms and other flowers. Thorp pointed out the Valley carpenter bees, mountain carpenter bees, European wool carder bees, yellow-faced bumble bees and black-tailed bumble bees.
Thorp, who monitors the garden for bees, has found some 85 different species of bees--"and counting"--over the last five years. He began forming baseline data a year before the garden was planted.
The key goals of the garden are to provide bees with a year-around food source, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own. Häagen-Dazs, a premier ice cream brand, generously supports the garden.
The garden design is the work of a Sausalito team which won the international design competition using a series of interconnected gardens with such names as “Honeycomb Hideout,” "Orchard Alley,” "Growers' Circle," “Round Dance Circle” and “Waggle Dance Way." The team: landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki.
The art work in the garden is by the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, co-founded and co-directed by entomologist/associate dean Diane Ullman and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick. Billick also created the six-foot long worker bee sculpture that anchors the garden. The sculpture, which Billick cleverly named "Miss Bee Haven," is of mosaic ceramic.
Berenbaum visited the UC Davis campus May 20-21 to deliver two presentations as part of the Storer Lectureships: "Bees in Crisis: Colony Collapse, Honey Laundering and Other Problems Bee-Setting American Apiculture" on May 20 and "Sex and the Single Parsnip: Coping with Florivores and Pollinators in Two Hemispheres" on May 21. (Click on this link to watch a video of her talk, "Bees in Crisis.")
Berenbaum, a talented scientist, dedicated researcher, dynamic speaker, creative author, and an insect ambassador who wants people to overcome their fear of insects, focuses her research on the chemical interactions between herbivorous insects and their host plants, and the implications of these interactions on the organization of natural communities and the evolution of species.
As as a spokesperson for the scientific community on the honey bee colony collapse disorder, Berenbaum has conducted research, written op-ed essays and testified before Congress on the issue.
That's what happened Sunday. A dragonfly--identified by naturalist Greg Kareofelas, volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis as a female Sympetrum madidum--zigzagged into our yard and began catching flies, sweat bees and other soft-bodied insects near our fish pond.
It favored a series of bamboo stakes, installed there just for the dragonflies. It moved from one to another as if trying to decide which one it liked the best.
It appeared to like them all! It stayed for four hours.
This dragonfly, also called a red-veined meadowhawk, belongs to the family Libellulidae, the same family as our favorite red flameskimmers (Libellula saturata).
Most of the dragonflies we've encountered are quite skittish—you can't go within 25 feet before they dart off. Not this one. It allowed us to get within an inch of it. Guess it figured we were no threat. Curious, yes. Predator, no.
Nearby, however, scrub jays nesting in the cherry laurels popped out occasionally to find food for their chirping offspring. Fortunately, Ms. Sympetrum madidum wasn't on the menu.
Berenbaum will discuss "Bees in Crisis: Colony Collapse, Honey Laundering and Other Problems Bee-Setting American Apiculture" at her public lecture on Tuesday, May 20 at 4:10 p.m. in Ballrooms A and B of the UC Davis Conference Center, 550 Alumni Lane.
We expect a huge crowd to hear her talk about the bee-fuddling crisis. Already we're being asked: "Will her talk be video-recorded?"
Yes, it will.
The reactions range from "Wonderful!" to "Hoo-ray!"
As a spokesperson for the scientific community on the honey bee colony collapse disorder, Berenbaum has conducted research, written op-ed essays and testified before Congress on the issue.
Berenbaum will become president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA) in 2016. (Current president of ESA is integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor of entomology at UC Davis.)
Her talk comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement May 15 that it will host a pollinator summit Oct. 20-21 in Washington, D.C. to address the nutrition and forage needs of pollinators. A consortium of public, private, and non-governmental organizations will focus on the most recent research related to pollinator loss and work to identify solutions.
USDA, headquartered in Washington, D.C., just launched a bee cam at its People's Garden Apiary "as an additional effort to increase public awareness about the reduction of bee populations and to inform Americans about actions they can take to support the recovery of pollinator populations."
The project is appropriately termed "Bee Watch." Check out the Bee Watch website to observe honey bee hive activity live over the Internet 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Meanwhile, there's more bee watching going on: May Berenbaum's presentation on "Bees in Crisis."
If you're thinking about adding more bee friendly plants to your garden but you're concerned about the drought, the UC Davis Arboretum has the answers.
The arboretum will host its public spring clearance plant sale on Saturday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive.
You'll find a large election of Christmas natives and Arboretum All-Stars. (Members of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and the Davis Botanical Society receive 10 percent off their purchases. And yes, you can join the Friends on May 17.)
One of the plants we like--as do the birds and the bees--is Kniphofia "Christmas Cheer," also known as a red hot poker and torch lily. Ellen Zagory, horticulture director of the Arboretum, describes it as "a torch lily on steriods. It gets big and puts out a large display of showy flowers in winter and long into spring."
Yes, it does.
We remember taking a photo of the Christmas Cheer on Christmas Day in the Arboretum's Storer Garden. The bees didn't know about the winter break. Neither did a finch.
Break? What break?
In a recent newsletter, Zagory wrote about some of the plants that will be available for sale.
“On campus we have fairly heavy soil and water that's high in bicarbonates and boron, so I always think…if it grows well here, it will do even better elsewhere. In light of limited water supplies and rising water prices we need to think even harder about plants that can survive with low or very low quantities of water, but they can still be pretty. You'd never know these were drought-tolerant considering the seasonal impact and drama they provide!”
The Arboretum kindly provides a list of available plants that you can download from its web page.
The bees--and the birds, butterflies and others engaged in animal/plant interactions--will thank you.
Female Valley carpenter bees are solid black--except when they're foraging around passion flowers. Then they're black and yellow--the yellow being the color of the pollen transferred to their thorax.
Mary Patterson, one of the founding Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven gardeners, planted a Passiflora (passion flower vine) along a fenceline of the bee garden several years ago to attract such insects as honey bees, carpenter bees and Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae). This is the Gulf Frit's host plant.
And the Passiflora does indeed attract them.
The Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) were really mixing it up today during a Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Committee meeting.
The garden, installed in the fall of 2009, thanks to a generous gift from Häagen-Dazs to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is open from dawn to dusk.
Check out the passion flowers. You'll find lots of insects passionate about them.