You often see a single solitary bee on a sunflower.
Perhaps it's a sunflower bee (Svastra) or a honey bee (Apis mellifera).
But four on one? Sharing a sunflower?
If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see Svasta, Apis and a sweat bee, Halictus ligatus on the sunflower head, plus another sweat bee, Halictus triparitus, "coming in for a landing," says native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
If you're curious about the sunflower bee, "Our Svastra obliqua expurgata is a native bee and exhibits a preference for sunflowers which are also native and other relatives of sunflower," Thorp said. "The genus Svastra has over 20, all occurring in North and South America. All are ground nesting solitary bees. Some other species of Svastra exhibit preferences for pollen from evening-primrose or cactus.'
The garden is open from dawn to dusk, with free admission. You can do self-guided tours. Soon, probably next spring, the UC Davis Department of Entomology will offer guided tours.
Bee friendly garden? Indeed. In fact, Thorp has found 75 different species of bees--and counting--since he began monitoring the plot in October 2009, a year before it was planted.
If you wander through the garden, be sure to bring your camera, especially if you love insects and flowers.
You may find five species of bees sharing a sunflower!
Now that's Italian!
The Italian honey bee (below) nectaring on a zinnia at the University of California, Davis, is striking for two reasons: she's as gold as starthistle honey in the sunlight and she's a very young forager.
"That is a pretty young bee to be a forager," said Exension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "Look at all that baby hair."
When European colonists introduced honey bees (Apis mellifera) into the Jamestown colony (now Virginia) in 1622, it wasn't the Italian. It was what beekeepers call the "dark bee" subspecies of Northern Europe, Apis mellifera mellifera.
The Italian or Apis mellifera ligustica didn't arrive in America until 1859. "The American beekeeping public was enamored with the newly available yellow and gentle bees," bee breeder-geneticist and co-author Susan Cobey wrote in a chapter of the book, Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions. "As a result, Italian-type bees form the basis for most present-day commercial beekeeping stocks in the U.S. Following the arrival and success of honey bees from Italy, U.S. beekeepers developed an interest to try other honey bee subspecies."
Indeed, it took 231 for years for honey bees to arrive in California. Beekeeper Christopher A. Shelton introduced honey bees to the Golden State in 1853, establishing an apiary just north of San Jose. (Check out the bee plaque at the San Jose International Airport.)
Cobey, of UC Davis acclaim, serves as the project leader of the Honey Bee Stock Improvement Program, working with Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, and other scientists.They aim to enhance the genetic diversity of domestic bee stocks through the importation of honey bee germplasm (drone sperm).
Meanwhile, this week over at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk (who worked with Cobey at Ohio State University) is extracting honey.
If you look at the backlit honey, it looks just like the young Italian honey bee that Mussen says "is pretty young to be a forager."
Seattle will be the place to "bee" on Oct. 4-7.
That's where the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) will hold its annual meeting--and this year it's in conjunction with the Washington State Beekeepers' Association.
Bee scientists, beekeepers, and bee aficionados will gather in the Embassy Suites Hotels for the four-day conference to talk about what's troubling the bees, to learn about scientific advancements, and to discuss how to alleviate the declining bee population. Registration is under way; those who register by Aug. 31 will receive a discount.
"There will be more presentations devoted to commercial beekeeping topics, but we will honor our roots and have concurrent sessions for the small-scale interests," said WAS spokesperson Fran Bach.
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, known for her queen bee-rearing and queen bee insemination classes at the University of California, Davis, and now affiliated with Washington State University, will speak on queen bee rearing in the Pacific Northwest.
As the project director of the Honey Bee Stock Improvement Program, Cobey continues to work closely with California beekeepers, queen bee producers and the Almond Board of California.
Cobey and her colleague Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, are heavily involved in increasing genetic diversity in U.S. honey bees. They're gathering germplasm (drone sperm) in European countries and integrating it in the U.S. honey bee gene pool, aiming to build a stronger, more disease-resistant bee.
European colonists introduced the honey bee to America in 1622 but a genetic bottleneck occurred when the U. S. Honey Bee Act of 1922 restricted further importation.
"The selection, development, maintenance and adoption of highly productive European honey bee stocks that can tolerate Varroa (parasitic mites) and resist diseases offer a sustainable, long-term solution" to the ongoing declining bee population, they point out in their chapter of the newly published book, Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions.
At the Seattle conference, Sheppard will speak on "Importation and Distribution of New Genetic Stocks of Honey Bees." WSU doctoral student Megan Taylor will discuss "New Developments in Honey Bee Germplasm Preservation at WSU." Another WSU doctoral student, Brandon Hopkins, will cover "New Developments in Honey Bee Germplasm Preservation at WSU."
Other speakers will discuss "The Value of Honey Bees in Almond Production," "Wings, Bikes and Trucks--Urban Beekeeping," "Indoor Wintering of Honey Bee Colonies," and "The Rocky Mountain Survivor Queenbee Cooperative." Still other talks range from how to prevent swarms to how to bring more bees to your garden.
WAS co-founder Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, describes the organization as "a non-profit, educational, beekeeping organization founded in 1978 for the benefit and enjoyment of all beekeepers in western North America."
The photo just begs for a caption.
The praying mantis, with a female sweat bee grasped in its spiked forelegs, suddenly turns its head to look at the photographer.
Actually, three photographers: Davis insect photographers/bee enthusiasts Allan Jones and Gary Zamzow and I. We were shooting images in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
Jones, admiring the first image (below), commented "I love the way the mantis has set breakfast aside to stare directly at you." With that, Jones served up three captions:
"Oh, is that your bee?"
"What are you looking at?"
"Threat or prey?"
Meanwhile, we were obviously interrupting the praying mantid's bee breakfast.
"The female sweat bee is carrying some pollen she toiled to provide for her young," said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "The mantid is also ducking under a spider webline, and needs to be careful that it does not become the meal of another sit and wait predator. It's a real jungle out there!"
Thorp, who has been monitoring the garden since October 2009, a year before it was planted, has so far discovered 75 different species of bees--and counting.
Yes, sometimes amid the predators and the prey, it's definitely a "real jungle out there."
Diggin' the digger bee...
We spotted this female digger bee, Anthophora urbana, zooming in on some zinnias at UC Davis. She buzzed loudly, virtually owning the zinnia patch. Smaller sweat bees scattered.
The bee, identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, is a solitary, ground nesting bee. "She has been around for a while judging by the worn (hairless) patch in the middle of the thorax," Thorp points out. "She has a dense brush of white hairs on her hind legs (scopa) for pollen transport."
Anthophoridae, described by Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World, is a "very large family...found in all parts of the world. Many are robust and resemble bumble bees."
"Most species nest in the ground while a few excavate in dead wood," they write.
The genus, Anthophora, includes more than 450 species worldwide. It's one of the largest in the Apidae family, which includes honey bees, carpenter bees, bumble bees, cuckoo bees and the like.
Anthophora urbana differs sharply from our honey bee, Apis mellifera.
The honey bee is social, living in a hive with some 60,000 other bees and sharing the workload. The digger bee is solitary.
The honey bee gathers nectar and pollen (and also propolis, from plant resin) and makes honey. The digger bee forages for nectar and pollen but does not make honey.
Occasionally, as floral visitors, they bump into each other. The social and the solitary...