Those of us addicted to photographing honey bees hate it when the cold, rainy California weather settles in.
December and January are the worst for capturing images of bees outside their hives.
However, if you plant a pollinator garden with seasonal blossoms and locate it near an apiary--Voila!
In between rain drops, when the sun bursts through the clouds, you can count on seeing honey bees going about their work.
Yesterday we noticed honey bees foraging in the azure bush germander (Teucrium fruitcans), a perennial that blooms in the winter and spring.
Mother Nature's watercolors!
Nature's Gallery, a ceramic mosaic mural installed in the UC Davis Arboretum's Ruth Risdon Storer Garden, is gathering lots of visitors--and lots of donors.
This amazing mural by the UC Davis Art Science Fusion Program, directed by entomologist/artist Diane Ullman and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick, is comprised of more than 140 tiles, all hand-crafted by students, staff, faculty and community members.
Earlier showcased in the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., where it drew more than 300,000 visitors, it is now "home sweet home" in the UC Davis Arboretum.
The good folks at the UC Davis Arboretum are seeking donors for the remainder of the plants and insects depicted on the mural. It's sort of like "Adopt a Bug" or "Adopt a Plant." Donors' names, or names memoralizing loved ones, are engraved on the wall.
So, back to the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). The art work is beautiful, but no one has stepped forward to adopt it. Also available are the giant crane fly (Holorusia rubiginosa), the white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata), a scarab (Bolbelasmus horni), and the meadow spittle bug (Philaenus spumarius).
Our family scooped up the shining leaf chafer beetle (Paracotalpa puncticollis), but only because the honey bee (Apis mellifera), our favorite insect, was unavailable. "The honey bee was among the first to go," Ullensvang said. UC Davis alumnus Dr. Jonathan Bowman donated it in memory of his parents.
If you prefer plants to insects, there are a few plants available: acanthus (Acanthus mollis), Cypriot woundwort (Sideritis cypria), black mondo grass (Opiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'), and Euonymous or “Emerald ‘n Gold” (Euonymus fortunei). (See what's available.)
So, if you're looking for a perfect holiday gift (good cause and lasting legacy), there's an Argentine ant-donor tile that could have your name on it.
Unless, of course, you'd prefer the meadow spittle bug...
It's no secret that Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, loves the water.
Well, there's white-water kayaking for one.
And, two, his water balloon battles.
Every summer for the past 10 years, he's hosted a water balloon battle on the Briggs Hall lawn. In a show of camaraderie, Hammock, his colleagues, graduate students and undergraduate students gather on the lawn and douse each other with water balloons--and sometimes heaping buckets of water. It's basically 15 minutes of aim because that's how long it takes. This year's event took place July 13 and ended in record time: 10 minutes.
Hammock doesn't have far to walk to the Big Balloon Battle at Briggs. His office and some of his labs are on the "garden level" of the three-story building.
That would be the basement.
Well, no thanks to the huge rainstorm last weekend, he experienced another kind of water--a flood.
He walked into his office Sunday morning only to see "lots of water and lots of mud." He sent us the photo below.
"Most things were off the floor, but of course, some were not," Hammock said. "Some equipment loss. Could be a nightmare if we get mold in the walls."
Some of his colleagues in the Briggs Hall basement also reported water in their offices and labs.
"We've had worse floods over the last 10 years," Hammock said. "We've had the water level above our head in the bike pit (the bicycle parking lot below the front steps)."
As for the water balloon battles, the Hammock lab is known for working hard and playing hard. Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, the National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program and the NIEHS Combined Analytical Laboratory.
He is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and the recipient of the 2001 UC Davis Faculty Research Lecture Award and the 2008 Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching.
But last weekend, Hammock was the recipient of one of Mother Nature's unexpected "gifts."
The kind of water nobody wants.
What's that? A honey bee and a male yellowjacket on the same blossom?
Honey bees and yellowjackets belong to the same order, Hymenoptera, but different families. The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is in the Apidae family, while the yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica, belongs to the family, Vespidae.
When beekeepers open the hives at the adjacent Laidlaw facility, trouble can start between the honey bees and the yellowjackets. It's no secret that female yellowjackets establish their nests near apiaries to prey upon honey bees and their brood. They need the protein for their offspring.
But here they were--the honey bee and the yellowjacket--together.
The first occupant: the honey bee. She began foraging on a rose blossom when suddenly a male western yellowjacket approached her. Seemingly unaware of his presence, she kept foraging. He poked her with his antennae. She ignored him. He crawled up next to her and took a close look at her. She kept foraging.
A few seconds later, he left.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, later commented: "I can't help but wonder why the male yellowjacket was visiting a rose flower--no nectar there, so no reward for him."
"Maybe he was just checking out the other occupant 'while searching for love in all the wrong places.' "
Indeed, the male yellowjacket may have been looking for a suitable mate.
This one? Definitely not suitable!
That's the topic--and a good one it is--of the 2013 4-H Honey Bee Essay Contest, sponsored by The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees.
Why this topic? "Pesticides are a fact of modern life, but misuse or overuse of pesticides, or making poor choices when selecting and applying pesticides can be devastating to honey bees and other pollinators. The 4-H’ers are encouraged to learn about bee-killing pesticides being used in their communities – by homeowners, businesses, or farmers. Then, they should investigate how the impact of those pesticides on honey bees can be lessened."--National Essay Contest Guidelines.
The contest is open only to members of 4-H, a youth development program that teaches life skills and how to make the best better. Some 4-H'ers are beekeepers, but enrollment in a beekeeping project isn't required to enter the competition.
Each state will select a winner and then a national winner will be selected from the pool of state winners.
Judges will score the essays on scope of research (40 percent), accuracy (30 percent), creativity (10 percent), conciseness (10 percent) and logical development of the topic (10 percent).
California 4-H'ers have until Feb. 15, 2013 to submit their essays (750 to 1000) words to the state judge/coordinator, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. All essays must be electronically submitted (firstname.lastname@example.org). (See the rules.)
In 2011, California 4-H'er Rachel Ricchiuto won the national award for her essay on "U.S. Honey: A Taste for Every Preference." This year (2012) another California 4-H'er, Tucker Van Brunt, received second for his essay on "The Results of Honey Bee Pollination in My Community." You can read their essays and other award-winning essays on the Honey Bee Preservation website.
The national winners will receive cash prizes: 1st place: $750; 2nd place, $500; and 3rd place, $250. All national and state winners will receive a book about honey bees, beekeeping, or honey.
It will be interesting to see what the youths have to say about pesticides.
And, by the way, Mussen points out that "honey bee" is two words, not one.