The news is disturbing but not unexpected.
Scientists are linking global climate change to one reason why the worldwide population of bumble bees is declining.
An article published Sept. 28 in the journal Ecology Letters by Florida State University (FSU) researchers showed that bumble bees just aren't getting enough floral resources.
For the study, lead researcher and postdoctoral fellow Jane Ogilivie and six colleagues examined three subalpine bumble bee species in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, and found that the changing climate means fewer flowers.
"Knowing whether climate variation most affects bumble bees directly or indirectly will allow us to better predict how bumble bee populations will cope with continued climate change," Ogilivie told the FSU News Service in a press release. "We found that the abundances of all three bumble bee species were mostly affected by indirect effects of climate on flower distribution through a season."
The FSU News Service aptly headlined the research a "Stinging Report."
"When researchers think about flower effects on bees, they typically consider floral abundance to be the most important factor, but we found that the distribution of flowers throughout a season was most important for bumble bees,” Ogilivie said. “The more days with good flower availability, the more bees can forage and colonies can grow, and the bigger their populations become. We now have longer flowering seasons because of earlier snowmelt, but floral abundance has not changed overall. This means we have more days in a season with poor flower availability.”
The researchers wrote in their abstract: "Climate change can influence consumer populations both directly, by affecting survival and reproduction, and indirectly, by altering resources. However, little is known about the relative importance of direct and indirect effects, particularly for species important to ecosystem functioning, like pollinators. We used structural equation modelling to test the importance of direct and indirect (via floral resources) climate effects on the interannual abundance of three subalpine bumble bee species. In addition, we used long-term data to examine how climate and floral resources have changed over time. Over 8 years, bee abundances were driven primarily by the indirect effects of climate on the temporal distribution of floral resources. Over 43 years, aspects of floral phenology changed in ways that indicate species-specific effects on bees. Our study suggests that climate-driven alterations in floral resource phenology can play a critical role in governing bee population responses to global change."
Bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, long ago sounded the alarm that bumble bees are in trouble. He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide (Princeton) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
The last bumble bee we saw--the last of the season--was on Sept. 23 at Kate Frey's pollinator garden at the Sonoma Cornerstone, Sonoma. It was a yellow-faced queen bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, nectaring on a spiked floral purple plant, Salvia ‘Indigo Spires' (Salvia farinacea x S. farinacea). The queen had apparently emerged from hibernation to find food on that warm summerlike day.
I knelt to capture some images.
"Oh, it's just a bumble bee," scoffed one tourist, casually sipping a glass of wine. "They're everywhere."
Sadly, they're not.
That's a question we're often asked and now we have an answer: Saturday, Oct. 7.
World-class bee garden designer and pollinator advocate Kate Frey, co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden" (with UC San Francisco professor Gretchen LeBuhn), is inviting folks to join her to "see the principles and practices of the American Garden School expressed and demonstrated" in her unique pollinator garden in Hopland, inland Mendocino County.
A workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. will cover design, site preparation, building health soil, weed control, bees and wildlife in the garden, plant care, and will look at some recommended plant varieties. It will end with an irrigation system demonstration. The cost is $35 for the workshop.
If you want to attend the garden tour, it's from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $10, and participants are invited to bring their lunch.
Worldwide, there are 20,000 species of bees. Of that number, 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 of them in California. A good many of them are found in the UC Berkeley Urban Gardens (see UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab and in the Frey garden!
The Frey gardens include floral borders, a vegetable garden, unique rustic structures and whimsical art (the work and/or collection of husband Ben), a chicken palace and more. With the Swiss chalet home, this is straight out of a storybook! Indeed, visitors call it an "instant sanctuary," says Kate. They marvel at the beauty, the color, and the paths just begging to be explored. A feast for the eyes; serenity for the soul.
You can register on the American Garden School site. Directions are posted online.
It's a shame we all can't clone ourselves and be in two places at the same time! The 40th annual Western Apicultural Society conference at the University of California, Davis, just concluded and now several more items appear on the University of California calendar.
California Center for Urban Horticulture's 'Bee-ing a Better Bee Gardener'
The California Center for Urban Horticulture, UC Davis, and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology are co-sponsoring a workshop," Bee-ing a Better Bee Gardener, focusing on pollinators in the garden, from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 in Room 2 of Kleiber Hall, UC Davis campus. It's a fundraiser for the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.
Following the program at Kleiber Hall, participants will visit the haven and are invited to purchase plants at a pollinator plant sale.
Organizers said that "you should plan to attend only if you are a Master Gardener, 'keen' gardener, or have an introductory background knowledge to one of the following: entomology, botany, horticulture, or plant/insect morphology or taxonomy.
The registration fee of $50 includes a continental breakfast and lunch. For more information, contact program manager Eileen Hollett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530)-752 6642.
UC Hopland Research and Extension Center's "Native Bees in Your Backyard"
The UC Hopland Research and Extension Center has scheduled a four-hour program, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 on "Native Bees in Your Backyard" at two sites in Hopland. UC Berkeley professor Gordon Frankie and entomologist/photographer Rollin Coville, co-authors of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, will discuss native bees. They will be joined by Kate Frey, award-winning gardener and co-author of “The Bee-Friendly Garden" who will provide a guided tour of her gardens and explain what plants attract pollinators. Her gardens are renowned for their floristic diversity, color and the habitats they provide for wildlife.
Hannah Bird, community educator at the Hopland Research and Extension Center, says attendees will "learn about some of the 1600 native bee species found in California--from the leafcutting bee to the cuckoo bee, the sweat bee to the mining bee!" They will learn how to identify them and how to accommodate their needs. For more information and directions, Bird can be contacted at email@example.com or (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105.
If you haven't purchased your copy of California Bees and Blooms, it's a treasure. It's the work of Gordon Frankie and photographer Rollin Coville (as mentioned above); Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; and Barbara Ertter, UC Berkeley botanist. It's been described as a landmark book.
And now, one more!
Ready for one more? This one, however, is free, and no reservations are required. The Bohart Museum of Entomology of UC Davis will host an open house, "Insects and U," on Sunday, Sept. 24, 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. The open house, a family friendly event, is free and open to the public of all ages.
"This purposely coincides with UC Davis dorm move-in weekend," says Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. "Our target audience is new students and their families, but everyone is welcome. The focus is how to study insects at home and in school--any age."
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the moth and butterfly collection, will show attendees how to pin and spread butterflies during the three-hour open house. Smith, a resident of Rocklin, curates the 400,000-specimen (and growing) collection. The entomologist has spread the wings of more than 200,000 butterflies and moths, or about 7000 a year, since 1988. “I do most of the work at my home, where I spread and identify specimens and add them to the museum collection,” he said.
“My life is dedicated to this passion of entomology,” said Smith, an associate of the Bohart Museum and a member of the Bohart Museum Society and the Lepidopterists' Society. He was named a recipient of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' "Friend of the College" award in 2015.
Undergraduate advisor Brandy Fleming will be on hand (tabling) to talk about classes, careers, and fun with entomology. Yang is also planning a display featuring cabbage white butterflies for educators.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids, and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
So there you have it--bees and gardens on Saturday, Sept. 23, and "Insects and U" (including butterflies) on Sunday, Sept. 24.
Or have you ever seen a bee nectaring in a community garden and wondered "How can I attract THAT bee to my yard?"
Just like all floral visitors are not bees, not all bees are honey bees. However, the honey bee, Apis mellifera, is the most well known. Worldwide, there are 20,000 species of bees. Of that number, 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 of them in California.
Here's how you can find out more about them.
The University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center has scheduled a four-hour program, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 on "Native Bees in Your Backyard" at two sites in Hopland and you're invited.
UC Berkeley professor Gordon Frankie and entomologist/photographer Rollin Coville, co-authors of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, will discuss native bees. They and will be joined by Kate Frey, award-winning gardener and author of “The Bee-Friendly Garden" who will provide a guided tour of her gardens and explain what plants attract pollinators. Her gardens are renowned for their floristic diversity, color and the habitats they provide for wildlife.
Participants will meet from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Kate Frey Gardens and from 11:30 to 2 p.m. at the UC Hopland and Research Center, 4070 University Road, Hopland, from 11:30 to 2 p.m. A locally sourced, honey-themed lunch, catered by Beth Keiffer, will be served at noon.
Hannah Bird, community educator at the Hopland Research and Extension Center, says attendees will "learn about some of the 1600 native bee species found in California--from the leafcutting bee to the cuckoo bee, the sweat bee to the mining bee!" They will learn how to identify them and how to accommodate their needs.
Frankie will share the research done by UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab and Rollin Coville will display and discuss his photographs of native bees and how he captured the images.
Advance registration is required by Sept. 18. The cost is $40, which includes lunch. Click here to register. Maps and directions will be provided to registrants.
“I'd love to attract honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinators, but what can I do?" you ask. "Where do I start?"
So we asked world-class garden designer Kate Frey of Hopland, a two-time gold medal winner at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London, co-founder of the American Garden School, and co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden (with Professor Gretchen LeBuhn of San Francisco State University) for her advice.
Few people are as passionate about pollinators and pollinator gardens as Kate Frey.
We heard her speak at the Native Bees Workshop last September at the Hopland Research and Extension Center, Mendocino County, and we tagged along on her guided tour of her one-acre spectacular garden at her Hopland home, where she and husband Ben and assorted pets reside. We also heard her speak on "Gardening for Bees, Beauty and Diversity" May 14 at Annie's Annuals and Perennials, Richmond.
Kate is highly sought as a speaker, whether it be at sustainable landscape programs, gardening seminars, or at UC workshops. Among her affiliates: University of California entomologists Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis, and Professor Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley. (Read what Frankie has to say about native bees.)
So, what to do first? Kate offers these tips:
- Create healthy gardens that require no pesticides by using the right plant, right place approach, add quality compost to all plants and irrigate adequately.
- Choose appropriate plants for your water, soils, exposure, climate, and if annuals, season!
- Think in terms of abundance, not minimalism. Plant at least a 3-x-3 foot area of each plant, or repeat the same plant throughout your garden. Each honey bee colony needs an estimated one-acre of flowers to support it.
- Goal: 12 months of bloom. Plants can be annuals, perennials, shrubs or trees.
- Make sure plants do offer floral resources, as many landscape plants don't.
- Have patches or repeated plants of the same flower. Honey bees practice floral constancy.
- Include water for honey bees
- Sunny spaces are the best.
- Provide bee-block nests and mulch-free nest sites for native bees.
All great advice! Indeed, we should think of pollinators as not mere "visitors," but permanent residents. Plant what they like and they will come. To ensure that they will stay stay, leave soil bare for ground-nesting bees, such as bumble bees. And don't forget those bee-block nests, or bee condos, for leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees.
- Asclepias milkweeds, all
- Asters, Aster x frikartii 'Monch' A. ericoides ‘Monte Casino', A. laterifolius Lady in Black'
- Agastache, ‘Black Adder' ‘'Purple Haze' Rosy Giant' ‘Tutti Frutti' and many more
- Arbutus unedo, Strawberry tree
- Arctostaphylos, most Manzanita
- Calamentha nepetoides, Calamentha
- Ceanothus, all California lilac
- Epilobium, California fuchsia. There are many good cultivars
- Eriogonum fasciculatum, California buckwheat
- Gaillardia, Blanket flower
- Helianthus bolanderi, native shrubby sunflower
- Monardella villosa, Coyote mint
- Nepeta faassenii, all nepetas, Catmint
- Origanum, flowering oregano, all. Origanum 'Santa Cruz' and 'Bristol Cross' are good.
"Bee gardens make people happy," Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn write in their book. "Whether you enjoy a brilliant chorus of saturated color, a tranquil sanctuary from the busy world, or a hardworking edible garden, there is a glorious, flower-filled bee garden waiting for you."
Yes, we all need a happy place. And so, too, do the pollinators.