The next time you're around a lamb's ear--no, not the animal, the plant (Stachys byzantina)--watch for buzzing bees.
Especially the European wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum). The females card the fuzz from the soft, silvery-gray leaves for their nests. Both the males and females sip nectar from the blossoms.
The males are quite territorial and bodyslam honey bees and other foraging insects. They're trying to save the sweet nectar for the females and mate with them.
It was windy this morning in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It didn't seem to bother the patrolling European wool carder bees. But their presence--and the body slams--bothered the honey bees.
The haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is open from dawn to dusk. There is no admission.
The UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program is installing mosaic ceramic panels on cement planters at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, west of the UC Davis central campus.
Diane Ullman and Donna Billick, co-founders and co-directors of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program and their associate, professional mosaic ceramic artist Mark Rivera of Davis, began installing the work, titled “Life in the Hive,” on Thursday, May 30.
The newest addition joins two other mosaic ceramic-paneled plants. One showcases honey bees and bee friendly gardening, and the other focuses on plants and alternative pollinators, such as butterflies, bumble bees, carpenter bees, blue orchard bees, and metallic green sweat bees.
Students in the Entomology 1 class, taught by Diane Ullman, associate dean in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and professor of entomology, and self-described “rock artist” Donna Billick, created the panels on all three of the once-barren cement planters.
The latest addition, “Life in the Hive,” is the work of the spring-quarter Entomology 1 class. The students will gather in the haven on Saturday, June 1, to complete the installation. They will then discuss their work at a special event from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, June 4 in the haven.
“Life in the Hive,” lettered with “Honey Bee Haven” and “Häagen Dazs,” depicts the life cycle of the worker bee, queen bee, and drone. It also features a waggle dance, the queen bee and her retinue, and a newly emerged queen bee stinging and killing a competing queen ready to emerge from a cell. The art also depicts nurse bees, undertakers and foragers.
Another panel shows a “before” and “after” person: "before" when he was deathly frightened of bees, and "after," when he developed an appreciation for them.
The UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, launched in 1997, helps students reach across disciplines to learn science through art, and art through science, Ullman said. Each course focuses on key areas of biology, physics or environmental science and expressive art media, including ceramics, graphics, textiles, photography, poetry and music.
The haven is a year-around food source for bees and other pollinators and is designed to (1) raise public awareness about the plight of bees, and (2) to show visitors what they can plant in their own gardens. Part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, it is located just a few yards from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
The garden is open to the public from dawn to dusk for self-guided tours. For guided tours (nominal fee involved), the contact person is Christine Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honey bees love it.
We watched a honey bee foraging on lavender blossoms last weekend, when an ant appeared on the scene. The ant? A worker of Liometopum occidentale (velvety tree ant), according to ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
If you don't know much about ants, but have always admired them, then "Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants," is for you.
It's the collaborative work of two entomologists: biologist/science writer Eleanor Spicer Rice, who received her doctorate in entomology from North Carolina State University, and biologist/insect photographer Alex Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Ward.
In a recent Myrmecos blog, Wild describes the book as "an entry-level ebook written for the general naturalist curious about ants. Dr. Eleanor recounts stories of the most common species seen in the southeastern United States, interspersed with photographs from my galleries."
"It’s the kind of book you give to the young naturalist who wonders about the ants on the sidewalk," Wild says, "or perhaps to that grumpy uncle who never quite seems to get what it is you are doing in graduate school studying the little creatures."
And, guess what? The Dr. Eleanor/Dr. Alex book is free to download. One way to receive it is to access the Myrmecos blog and click on the I-Tunes and/or PDF links.
Rice relates that she's always been fascinated by ants. So is Andrea Lucky, who, like Wild, received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis with Phil Ward. Lucky heads the widely acclaimed citizen-scientist project, "The School of Ants." (The School of Ants project is based in the Lucky lab at the University of Florida's Department of Entomology and Nematology and the lab of Rob Dunn in Biology at North Carolina State University. (Email them at email@example.com if you want to know more.)
But back to "Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants." It's fascinating. It's riveting. It's superb. The easy-to-read text and the amazing photos draw you in. You can literally feel the excitement, enthusiasm and passion when Dr. Eleanor asks "What's the big deal about ants?"
"We might not notice them, but ants surround us, occupying nearly every type of habitable nook and cranny across the glove," she writes. "Right now, ants snuggle up to your house, lay out their doormats in front of the trees in your yard, and snooze under your park benches. Some even nest inside the acorns littering the ground."
"We might not notice them, but they're there, and they shape, literally shape, our world," she points out.
And if you look closely in your own back yard, you just might see an ant and a bee sharing a lavender blossom.
In her professional life, she's an entomologist, researcher, teacher, mentor, artist, photographer, and author.
In her private life, she's a wife and mother.
Her specialty: darkling beetles. You'll often find her at her "home away from home," the Bohart Museum of Entomology where she studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, Bohart Museum director and UC Davis professor of entomology.
Fran Keller is the designer and impetus behind the many Bohart Museum of Entomology posters and t-shirts. Posters include Butterflies of Central California, Dragonflies of California, California State Insect (California Dogface Butterfly) and Pacific Invasive Ants. T-shirts spotlight dragonflies, butterflies and walking sticks. (Access them at the Bohart's online gift shop.)
Fran Keller also found time to author a children's book on the California dogface butterfly, with sales benefitting the Bohart Museum.
If you belong to the Entomological Society of America (ESA) or another entomological organization, you've probably seen her leading symposiums, presenting talks, and conferring with other scientists.
There's not much that she CAN'T do.
So, on Wednesday, Fran Keller will probably convince her audience that darkling beetles are more exciting than any other insect. After all, her enthusiasm is well known and led to her UC Davis honor as an outstanding teacher.
Keller's exit seminar, "Taxonomy of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Asidini," will be from 12:05 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 29 in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, located on the corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives. Plans call for the seminar to be videotaped for later public viewing on UCTV.
“My research focuses on a very large genus which historically had 88 species and no modern species level work for several taxa for nearly 175 years,” Keller said. “Part of my research focuses on a group of flightless species restricted to the Sierra Transvolcanica or southern Transverse range in Mexico. Using biogeography, morphological analyses and the examination of over 10,500 specimens, I recognize 51 valid species of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836, with seven newly recognized subgenera, while 37 formerly recognized species are synonymized or newly combined."
“Certain Stenomorpha species occur in California vernal pools but are not listed as vernal pool species,” Keller said. She also will discuss the importance of taxonomy in conservation.
If time allows, Keller will discuss her other projects, working in the Bahamas and mentoring students, as well as her recent research on morphology and developmental patterns of gene expression.
Keller received her associate science degree in biology and chemistry, with highest honors, from Sacramento City College in 2001 and then transferred to UC Davis where she received her bachelor’s degree in evolution and ecology (2004), and her master’s degree in entomology (2007).
She served as a teaching assistant for a number of courses at UC Davis and has also presented guest lectures, including “Insect Sex and Mating Systems” and “Insects and the Environment—Ecological Physiology.”
Among her many awards at UC Davis:
- Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, May 2008
- Division of Biological Sciences (DBS) Commencement Speaker, June 2004
- DBS Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement in Academics and Research in Evolution and Ecology, Spring 2004
- Outstanding Senior, 2004
- Undergraduate Research Conference, Oral Presentation, April 2004
- President’s Undergraduate Fellowship, Spring 2003
Her students applaud her teaching skills, her enthusiasm, and her care and concern. Said one student: "It's reassuring to know that out of a maze of 30,000 students and faculty at Davis that there are people like Fran who really care."
Bees carry pollen in their pollen baskets, but that's not the only place.
"Pollen grains adhere to the bee's hairs, influenced by opposite electrical charges," writes Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, in his popular book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
Bees comb and brush the pollen into their pollen baskets but, as Gary writes, "Fortunately for the plants, bees aren't 100 percent efficient at transferring the pollen to the pollen baskets. Thousands of pollen grains may still remain on their bodies even after they finish grooming. Bees leave enough pollen behind, depositing it accidentally on female flower structures to ensure effective pollination."
Honey bees collect nectar, pollen, propolis (plant resin) and water to keep the colony humming. Nectar is the colony's carbohydrate (sugar) while pollen is the protein. Pollen also contains such nutrients as minerals, vitamins and fatty substances.
"During an entire year, a typical bee colony gathers and consumes about 77 pounds of pollen," Gary writes, adding that a single pollen-foraging bee will average 10 trips per day. "When pollen is abundant, a bee can gather a full load in as little as ten minutes by visiting several dozen flowers," he points out.
If you look closely, sometimes you'll see a bee covered with pollen. The bee below was on a yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) in Napa.
If you're allergic to pollen, these photos just might make you sneeze!