It's appropriate to think of America's first veterans from 261 years ago--the patriots who fought in the American Revolutionary War, also known as The War of Independence (1755-1783).
One of my immigrant ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War was patriot Francis Keatley, born in Donegal County, Ireland. When the Revolutionary War broke out, he left his Virginia farm (now part of West Virginia) and signed up for Capt. Moffet's Company. (As an aside, historical documents show that Mr. Keatley missed a militia meeting and was fined 25 cents!)
Farmers then, as they do now, raised bees to pollinate their fruits and vegetables and to provide honey and other bee products for their families.
Despite popular opinion, honey bees are not native to America. European colonists brought the honey bee to Jamestown colony, Va., near the mouth of the James River, in 1622. Native American Indians, having never seen a honey bee before, called it "the white man's fly." When the Revolutionary War broke out, the "white man's fly" had been here for 133 years.
Bees played a small role in the Revolutionary War. Among the battles was "The Battle of the Bees" that occurred Oct. 3, 1780 at McIntyre's Farm, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
This is what happened, according to historical reports: Loyalists, led by Capt. John Doyle, were traveling down Beattie's Ford Road with 60 wagons. Their mission: to plunder area farms to replenish their supplies. A local boy alerted the McIntyre family that the loyalists were coming. Then the boy informed the patriots, led by Capt. James Thompson.
The patriots hid on the farm and watched as Doyle's men raided the livestock barns. Their bounty included bags of corn and oats that they heaved onto their wagons. During the raid, they accidentally tipped over some of the bee hives—and bees do what bees do when they are threatened: they attacked. During the ensuing commotion and battle, the patriots managed to kill eight loyalists (including Capt. Doyle) and wounded 12. The patriots suffered no fatalities.
Then there's the story about a Philadelphia beekeeper named Charity Crabtree, who warded off the British Redcoats in 1780 by beating her bee skeps with a stick. The angry bees then turned on the soldiers, stinging them relentlessly. Later George Washington reportedly remarked to Beekeeper Crabtree: “Neither you nor your bees shall be forgotten when our country is at peace again. It was the cackling geese that saved Rome, but it was the bees that saved America."
The Crabtree story, titled "How the Bees Saved America," first appeared in the Sunday School Advocate in 1917 and was reprinted in the American Bee Journal. The original story appears on the Los Angeles County Beekeepers website.
Bottom line: Honey bees, in defense of their hive, will attack. That's what bees do....And sometimes, they earn a place in our history books due to their defensive behavior...
If want to beautify your yard, attract pollinators, and save money at the same time, then you'll want to attend the UC Davis Arboretum Plant Sale on Saturday, Nov. 5. It's the final clearance sale of the season, and it will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Aboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, UC Davis campus.
Every plant will be marked down at least 20 percent, officials said. See list of plants here. Members save 10 percent and you can join at the door.
Taylor Lewis, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden nursery manager, says that autumn, with its shorter days and cooler temperatures, is "the best time of year for new planting whether you are renovating a lawn area or adding new plants to a mature landscape."
He and Ellen Zagory, director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, list five reasons why plant establishment is much easier now.
- Less water use – Thanks to recent rains the soil moisture can be kept constant with less irrigation.
- Softer soil – The soil is softer now so it's easier to dig holes!
- Fewer weeds – Unwanted plant life is less prolific thanks to less sun and cooler temperatures.
- Less stress – Cooler temperatures also are less stressful to new plants.
- Hearty roots – When the air temperature is cooler than the soil temperature, plants put more energy into root growth without new top growth, which results in heartier root systems and stronger plants overall.
Zagory points out: “There isn't going to be much growth above ground where you can see it, but just wait . . . come spring your plants will show you how happy they are you planted in fall!”
Many plants at the Nov. 5th sale are geared for pollinators. Some of pollinators' favorite foods include lavender, salvia, catmint, aster, butterfly bush, lantana, borage, salvia, sunflowers, blanket flower, cone flowers, and penstemon. And many more!
Want to attract butterflies? Consider not only the nectar-producing plants but their host plants. For example, monarchs lay their eggs only on their host plant, milkweed (genus Asclepias), the only plant the caterpillars will eat.
A few other host plants of butterflies:
- Gulf Fritillaries: Passion flower vine (genus Passiflora)
- Anise swallowtails: Sweet fennel (genus Foeniculum)
- Checkered skippers: Mallow (genus Malva)
- Western tiger swallowtails: Cottonwood and aspen cottonwood and aspen (Populus), willows (Salix), wild cherry (Prunus), and ash (Fraxinus).
- Pipevine swallowtail: Dutchmen's pipe or pipevine
The website of Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, offers a wealth of information on California butterflies. He's been studying the butterfly populations of Central California for more than four decades.
Calflora is the go-to site for a database of California non-native and native plants, invasive plants and rare plants.
The California Native Plant Society website encourage us to plant native plants.
The UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab website recommends what to plant for native bees.
Books? Yes. Two of the most recently published:
California Bees and Blooms, a Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists is the work of UC-affiliated authors Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Barbara Ertter and Rollin Coville.
The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity, by award-winning garden designerKate Frey and bee expert Gretchen LeBuhn of San Francisco State University, will guide you in selecting bee plants and designing your garden.
And you won't want to miss it.
If you head over to the 69th annual Solano County Fair, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo, between now and Sunday, July 31, you'll see lots of bees, butterflies, lady beetles, dragonflies, ants and other insects in McCormack Hall. They're depicted in photos and drawings, and on display boards, quilts, cakes, muffins, China plate paintings and more.
Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall, and her crew assembled the last of the displays earlier this week, just in time for the opening on Wednesday, July 27. The fair is open weekdays until 11 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31, from noon to 11 p.m.
Fairs are educational, informative, and entertaining, and the Solano County Fair, launched in 1949, is no exception. This year's theme is "Play It Again, Solano!"
But, back to the insects. Most of the exhibits in McCormack, of course, do not showcase insects, but many do! And they are amazing!
Have you ever seen a honey bee on a rock? Andrew Donato of Vallejo, has. In fact, he painted a bee on a rock and entered it in the 9-10 age graphic arts category. It's a winner!
Lexi Haddon Mendes of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, entered a decorated cake, "Flowers and Bees," in her age division, 9-10. She knows bees; she's a beekeeper and her father heads the club's beekeeping project.
Madeline Giron of Benicia entered muffins decorated with colorful ladybugs, aka lady beetles, in her 11-13 age division. Judges said "Yum!" and "Beautiful!" and "Blue Ribbon!"
Joseph Garrett of Fairfield entered several mounted insect specimens--along with a wolf spider (spiders are not insects)--in the science project division, ages 5-8. Is Joseph an entomologist-to-be?
The work of the adults is also incredible!
- Laquita Cumings of Rodeo entered a quilt of the most colorful butterflies you've ever seen. Best of show!
- Kim English of Fairfield entered a "Dresden design" China painting, adorned with flowers, butterflies and a bee.
- Celia Weller of American Canyon crafted a machine-quilted wall hanging adorned with flowers and an exotic butterfly not found in nature--but found at McCormack Hall.
- Beverly O'Hara of Benicia appliqued a quilt with ants and called it "Ant-titude." Clever! It features ants enjoying a picnic. What's a picnic without ants?
- Anita Jessop of Benicia imagined a field of flowers, and quilted a "Sunny Field of Flowers" wall hanging, complete with a hummingbird and dragonflies.
- Laura Ryan of Benicia entered a fan needlepoint anchored with a delightful blue butterfly. Reminds us of the blue morpho!
Those are just some of the prize-winning exhibits by youth and adults displayed at McCormack Hall. Be sure to check out the other buildings as well for an overall look at what the fair offers. The fair ends on Sunday, July 31 at 11 p.m.
Gloria Gonzalez, a longtime 4-H volunteer, has worked on the McCormack Hall displays for 11 years and has served as the superintendent for three years. She's the community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, a position she's held for eight years.
The veteran 4-H adult volunteer has served as a project leader in the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club for 18 years. Many of the folks who crew McCormack Hall are also 4-H'ers, including Sharon Payne, a past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council; and longtime 4-H'ers turned leaders, Angelina Gonzalez and Julianna Payne, all of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club.
They go together like honey bees on bee balm and bumble bees on tomatoes.
When you attend the 102nd annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 16, be sure to head over to Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive, to see the Pollinator Pavilion, which will emphasize the importance of pollinators in both natural environments and food production.
"It is often said that one in every three bites of food we take is dependent on animal pollination," said Pavilion Pollinator coordinator Margaret "Rei" Scampavia, a doctoral candidate in entomology. "While there are some foods that do not rely on animal pollination, many of the tastiest and most nutritious food does. To this end, we have a series of posters demonstrating what a meal might look like with and without foods that benefit from animal pollination."
"We are going to have a series of exhibits showcasing pollinator diversity, demonstrating their importance in natural ecosystems and food production, and providing information on what members of the general public can do to help native pollinators," Scampavia said.
"We will have information on a wide variety of animal pollinators, including butterflies, flies, wasps, birds, and even bats. But the majority of the exhibit will focus on the most abundant pollinators: native bees."
The highlight is the walk-in Pollinator Pavillion, an enclosure where visitors can "safely view live pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and flies, up close and in person," the entomologist said. "Younger guests can practice scientific observation by filling out specially provided data sheets. Some of the species present will include: blue orchard bees, Monarch butterflies, Red Admiral butterflies, and Painted Lady butterflies."
Scampavia points out that the European honey bee "is the first thing many people think of when they hear the word pollinator. But in reality, this species is only one of tens of thousands of pollinator species; there are more than 20,000 species of bee besides the honeybee, for example. We hope that visitors to this exhibit will leave with a greater appreciation of the amazingly diverse animals that pollinate flowers."
Last year scores of enthusiastic visitors packed the Pollinator Pavilion. It proved to be one of the most popular, well-crafted, well-designed Picnic Day displays. Another eagerly anticipated event awaits Saturday.
And now there's an urgency.
"Many pollinator species are experiencing alarming declines," Scampavia said. "Monarch butterflies, for example, have declined by over 90 percent in the past ten years. To promote awareness of the plight of the Monarch, we have a series of exhibits with live caterpillars, chrysalises, and adults, which also contain important information about this species and what we can do to prevent further losses. There will also be information about ways to enhance outdoor spaces to promote and sustain healthy wild, native pollinators."
Xena the Warrior Princess, a 16-year-old tuxedo cat that we rescued from the pound, crossed the Rainbow Bridge today in a local veterinarian's office. We had her 16 years, or if cats have staff, we were her staff for 16 years. She allowed us to feed her, pet her, and love her.
A black outline of a butterfly adorned her left hind leg, the mark of a pollinator partner. She followed me from blossom to blossom as I captured images of bees, butterflies, dragonflies, sweat bees, spiders, praying mantids and every other little critter imaginable in our pollinator garden. She'd sit beneath my garden chair, just glad to be there, just glad to be alive.
That's what a Pollinator Partner does.
Xena the Warrior Princess was part warrior and part princess: a cunning predator and a purring princess. A predator that would delight in showing us her trophies, and a princess that loved to snuggle.
Then on Leap Year Day, Feb. 29, 2016, Xena the Warrior Princess suffered a debilitating stroke. Sixteen short years, and she's gone. She didn't want to go and we didn't want her to leave.
Rest in peace, Pollinator Partner.