Every Friday morning she'd come bounding over to greet me, her tail wagging happily, one ear up, one ear down.
I called her "My Second Favorite Dog" and nicknamed her "The Bee Garden Mascot."
Her owner, Kristen Kolb of Davis, was one of the 19 founding gardeners who tended the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted in September 2009 next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
As Kris weeded, planted and pruned, and hauled away the clippings, Olive tagged along, showcasing her trademark windshield-wiper tail, gentle brown eyes and topsy-turvy ears.
Kris and Olive were inseparable. They exchanged hugs and licks and conversation. This was a dog well-loved.
Olive's loyalty reminded me of my childhood dog, Ted, who followed me everywhere on the family farm. He watched me weed the vegetable garden, pick blackberries, and once jumped into the Cowlitz River and swam to our fishing boat. When I went off to college 400 miles away, Ted died. I think he died of a broken heart.
Olive died of cancer. Kris wrote me a note yesterday: "I know you loved her, too. She was about 12, and yes, from the shelter. We were so lucky to find each other and have 10+ wonderful years together. She loved the garden and the gardeners (haven coordinator Missy Borel Gable, team leader Mary Patterson, and Randy Beaton, Tyng Tyng Cheng, Judy Hills, Carolyn Hinshaw, Marion London, Kate McDonald, Kathy Olson, Nancy Stone, Janet Thatcher, Laura Westrup, Nyla Wiebe, Gary Zamzow, Kili Bong, Evan Marczak, Laurie Hildebrandt and Joe Frankenfield) and being a part of it all. Thank you for appreciating what a special dog she was."
Together the 19 founding gardeners donated 5200 hours to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology between May 2010 and February 2013. Missy Borel Gable, former program manager of the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis, now directs the statewide UC Master Gardeners' Program. Many of her colleagues are continuing their volunteer work in the UC Davis Arboretum.
The "haven saviors" made a difference. Under their care, the Sacramento Bee named the haven one of the Top 10 Garden Destinations in the area. But they were more than gardeners, volunteers and friends. They were family. They all took time to laugh, to talk about their lives, plans and plants (not necessarily in that order) and to watch the honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies, carpenter bees, European wool carder bees, metallic sweat bees, syrphids, ladybugs, bigeyed bugs, assassin bugs, lacewings, praying mantids, jumping spiders and web weavers--and an occasional red-tailed hawk, great-horned owl and jackrabbit.
And they all knew, as did I, what a very special dog Olive was.
"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
That's the line that came to me Saturday when I released a week-old Gulf Fritillary butterfly I'd reared in our home.
Kris Kristofferson penned that line in his hit song, "Me and Bobby McGee," popularized by Janis Joplin. Kristofferson most definitely was NOT thinking of Agraulis vanillae when he wrote that. According to performingsongwriter.com, he was thinking of a time-tested movie plot. You know, boy loves girl, boy leaves girl, boy cannot forget girl.
Calling freedom a "two-edged sword," Kristofferson explained that the boy "was free when he left the girl, but it destroyed him. That’s where the line ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’ came from."
Fact is, my little ol' December butterfly picked a terrible time to emerge in the habitat I purchased last summer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis. With outside temperatures dipping to 22 degrees, I didn't have the heart to make this a nothing-left-to-lose day. Not yet. So I fed it sugar water and waited for a better-chance-to-make-it day.
When the temperature hit 55, I released it on a passionflower vine in our yard. My boy butterfly quickly fluttered away, on the wings of freedom, only to return a few minutes later and touch down on a clump of pampas grass.
I'm sure it never found a mate. In fact, between hungry predators and the just-chillin' weather, it probably ended up as a one-day butterfly.
However, there's always the promise of more butterflies. A quick peek beneath the burlap-covered passionflower vine revealed several caterpillars and chrysalids.
The boys won't be back in town for awhile.
But they will show up. Girls, too.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, and his UC Berkeley-affiliated colleagues, Gordon Frankie, Rollin Coville, Sara Leon Guerrero and Jaime Pawalek, will show you where both the native male and female bees are during their June 4-8 workshop in Hastings Reserve, Carmel Valley, on "California's Native Bees: Biology, Ecology and Identification."
You'll learn how to identify California's native bees by genus and why it's critical to provide ecosystem services in not only wild habitats but in agricultural and urban settings. More than 1600 species comprise California's list of native bees. (And if you're thinking the honey bee is one of them--not! European colonists brought the honey bee to what is now the United States (Virginia) in 1622. The honey bee was introduced in California in 1853.)
If you join the workshop, you'll collect bees in the field at the UC Hastings Reserve and at a nearby diverse garden in Carmel Valley, according to the website. Then you'll also spend time in the lab viewing and keying collected specimens. Evening lectures on a variety of related topics will add to the field experiences. This workshop is an extension of the previously offered weekend bee workshop, with more focus on bee identification."
"Bee collections from the Hastings Reserve date back several decades, so knowledge of important bee-flower relationships are well known for this site. Participants will learn about bees' flower preferences, how to collect bees using several different methods, information on how to build a bee-friendly garden, bee photography techniques, and bee identification using generic keys and microscopes."
Frankie, Thorp, Coville and Barbara Ertter recently co-authored a California bee garden book, expected to be published in the fall of 2014 (Heydon). The working title is "California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists."
Of the four authors, Thorp, Frankie and Coville received their doctorates in entomology from UC Berkeley. Errter obtained a doctorate in biology from the City University of New York.
Thorp, who maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, taught a number of courses while on the UC Davis faculty: entomology, natural history of insects, insect classification, California insect diversity, and pollination ecology. Although he retired in 1994, he continues his research on ecology, systematics, biodiversity, conservation, and biology of bees. Thorp is also on the faculty of The Bee Course.
Frankie is a professor of insect biology at UC Berkeley who focuses his research on plant reproductive biology, pollination ecology, and solitary-bee biology. He splits his field research between California and Costa Rica.
Ertter has served as the curator of Western North American Flora, University Herbarium and Jepson Herbarium, UC Berkeley, since 1994. She focuses her research on the flora of western North America.
One thing's for sure: they'll share a wealth of information about native bees at this workshop!
Billed as "the first comprehensive guide to North American bumble bees to be published in more than a century," it allows readers, both amateurs and professionals, to identify all 46 bumble bee species found in North America and learn about their ecology, changing geographic distributions, and the endangered and threatened species.
Bumble bees, you know, are among the most recognizable of the world's 20,000 species of bees. The genus, Bombus, has only 250 species. A small number, indeed.
It's time for a spray of sunshine.
The golden daisy bush (genus Euryops, family Asteraeae), will do that to you.
The popular perennial both brightens your garden and attracts honey bees and other insects. The name originates from "eurys," Greek for "large" and "ops," meaning eye. Native to South Africa, the genus has about 100 species.
When the wintry andscape seems as drab as a rotten burlap sack, bee-hold the Euryops.
We spotted honey bees foraging on the shrub last Sunday at the Loch Lomond Marina, San Rafael, as the temperature rose to 60 degrees.