It was good to see the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) conduct its recent "Be a Scientist" project. Thousands of participants across the state counted pollinators (and also mapped places where food is grown and checked off the ways they are conserving water), according to Pam Kan-Rice, assistant director, News and Information Outreach, UC ANR.
In a news release posted this week, she reported that "10,697 people counted pollinators, including bees, butterflies, bird and even a few bats."
“It's encouraging to see so many Californians interested in pollinators because they play a vital role in producing food,” said Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources, in the news release. “People are conserving water in many different ways, which is important because water is a limited resource even in non-drought years. And, surprisingly, almost half of the people participating in our survey said they grow food.”
"Preliminary results," Kan-Rice reported, "show that people counted 37,961 pollinators in a three-minute period. Flies were by far the most abundant, accounting for 79 percent of the pollinators counted."
Meanwhile, on the national level, the Pollinator Partnership announced that National Pollinator Week, established by U.S. Congress in 2007, is growing by leaps and bounds. (Or maybe by wings and feet.)
In a press release, the Pollinator Partnership officials wrote: "Pollinators, like bees, butterflies, birds and other animals, bring us one in every three bites of food, protect our environment. They form the underpinnings of a healthy and sustainable future."
One of the many ways we can protect our pollinators is to pass the Highways BEE Act, introduced in Congress by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus (CP2C), to create and/or preserve pollinator habitat along our highways. Individuals, along with regional and local organizations, are signing an online petition at http://www.pollinator.org/BEEAct.htm.
BEE is an acronym for "Bettering the Economy and Environment" Pollinator Protection Act.
And at the UC Davis level, the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is hosting an open house at its Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Friday night, June 20, in observation of National Pollinator Week. The event, free and open to the public, will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Visitors will receive zinnia seeds until they're all gone.
The bee garden, installed next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility in the fall of 2009 with generous financial support from the premier ice cream company, is a year-around food source for bees and is also intended to raise public awareness of the plight of the honey bees and to provide ideas on what to plant in our own gardens.
When you walk through the front gates, you'll immediately see the six-foot-long mosaic ceramic honey bee created by self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. It's anatomically correct right down to the wax glands.
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.
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.
Debra Jamison, state regent of the California State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. loves bees. So when it came time to select a fundraising project, she knew what she wanted to do.
Jamison adopted the motto, “Bees are at the heart of our existence” and vowed to support honey bee research and enhance honey bee environments to help the beleaguered bees.
Jamison, whose first name means “bee” in Hebrew, says she's had a lifelong “love and respect for bees.” Her project? She chose to help bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, and support the adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, owned and maintained by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Last year Jamison and her fellow members of the California State Society donated $30,000 to bee scientist Brian Johnson. Then this year they gifted $15,000 to the garden, which was planted in 2009 as a year-around food resource for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators. It also serves to create public awareness for the plight of bees, and as an educational garden, where visitors can glean ideas for their own gardens.
The check was presented at a “lunch-with-the-bees” celebration organized by the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Some 125 DAR members, some from as far away as Chico and San Diego, dined beneath a canopy of olive trees bordering the road.
“We appreciate this more than we can say,” said Ed Lewis, professor and vice chair of the department--and whose mother belongs to DAR.
On behalf of the department, haven manager Christine Casey accepted the check from Jamison and Karen Montgomery of Modesto, the state regent's project chair. The department used some of the funds to purchase two benches. Other projects will include a shade structure in the Growers Grove section and more bee habitat.
Honey bees prefaced the American Revolutionary War (1765-1783) by 143 years. European colonists brought the honey bee to Jamestown colony, Virginia, in 1622. Descendants of the American Revolutionary War formed DAR in 1890.
“When the state regent's project was conceived, I never imagined that honey bees would be in the serious state they are in,” Jamison told the luncheon crowd. “I could not have imagined that this amazing insect would make the cover of Time magazine, or that the California DAR would be involved in trying to do something to help the most vital insect in the animal kingdom.”
“Our 114 chapters and 15 districts have worked diligently to educate members, children, and the public about the plight of bees,” Jamison said. “This outreach has been truly outstanding. Add to that the phenomenal fundraising efforts. I truly thought that when I brought this project before the members that they might think, ‘Eeeeeuuuu, creepy insect, and weird state regent.'
Jamison singled out several DAR members for special recognition. She praised Karen Montgomery, state chair of the project and member of the Major Hugh Moss Chapter, Modesto, and committee members Susan Montgomery of the Major Hugh Moss Chapter; and Diane Groome, Carol Vercellino and Sharon Paukkert, all of the José Maria Amador Chapter, Pleasanton. “Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for all of your work to raise funds for this project,” Jamison said
Jamison presented certificates of appreciation to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen and communication specialist Kathy Keatley Garvey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology for their work in helping DAR with the two-year project.
"Bee Patriotic” rally towels decorated each table. Last year Jamison's rally towels were lettered with “Bee-lieve in the Power of DAR." All those attending the March 28th luncheon received a “I Bee-long to DAR” recyclable grocery bag.
The crowd toured the haven and ended the day with hearing bee presentations in the Laidlaw facility conference room.
Mussen talked about the life cycle of bees and the issues bees face: malnutrition, pesticides, pests, parasites, diseases and stress. Malnutrition, Mussen said, is a bigger problem now than colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive. An active colony of honey bees requires an acre-equivalent of mixed blooms, daily, to meet their nutritional needs.
Mussen urged the DAR members to plant for bees, especially plants that normally bloom in late summer and fall, or delay plantings so that they result in late summer/fall blossoms. Good plant lists, he said, can be found on the UC Davis Entomology and Nematology's bee biology website (see Honey Bees), and on the Xerces website, under “Pollinator Conservation Resource Center.”
Mussen also warned that simply because certain pesticides are labeled for use in organic gardening does not mean that they are less dangerous for non-target insects, particularly pollinators. Also, insecticides that are watered into the soil and move from the roots, systemically throughout the plants, are secreted in the nectar and pollens when the treated plants bloom.
“We are just studying certain mixes of fungicides, insect growth regulators, and newer adjuvants that can cause serious damage to honey bee brood, even though that information is not on the labels,” Mussen said.
In thanking the DAR members Johnson said the $30,000 will cover a two-year period of graduate student research. His graduate student, Gerard Smith, researches the effect of pesticide exposure in the field on honey bee foraging behavior, and graduate student Cameron Jasper studies the genetic basis of division of labor in honey bees.
The haven is open from dawn to dusk every day. Admission is free. To commemorate National Public Gardens Day, a special event (free) will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, May 9. It will include a guide tour at 6 p.m. and a give-away of sunflower seeds (while they last).
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.