Remember that line in Gertrude Stein's 1913 poem, Sacred Emily: "A rose is a rose is a rose"?
Well, to paraphrase Stein: "A bee is a bee is a bee...except when it's not a bee."
In a recent interactive feature in the New York Times, writer Joanna Klein wondered how we can save the bees if we don't recognize them. She asked "Can You Pick the Bees Out of This Insect Lineup?" and posted an image of bees and wanna-be bees.
All entomologists, we're sure, passed. Many others--those who think every floral visitor is a honey bee--probably not.
Bee expert Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, passed it with flying colors--colors that included that gorgeous photo of a metallic green sweat bee. "Photo editors for news articles need to take this test judging by all the images of faux bees that accompany a variety of articles on bees, especially articles designed to educate the public about bees," commented Thorp, who, by the way, is the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide (Princeton University Press) and California's Bees and Blooms: a Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). "I suspect that this is what Joe Wilson had in mind when he created the plate of bees and faux bees."
Joseph S. Wilson, as you may recall, co-authored The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America's Bees (Princeton University Press) with Olivia J. Messenger Carrill. Wilson is also featured in a fantastic TED talk on "Save the Bees! Wait, Was That a Bee?"
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, gets that a lot--"Is this a bee? Is that a bee?" She recently wrote a piece in the Bohart Museum newsletter about flies masquerading as bees.
Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:
- A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
- A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
- A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does.
A bee is a bee is a bee...except when it's not a bee. Take the New York Times' quiz.
At the end, you'll be asked the number of bee species in the United States. Get ready...
Horticulture experts at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden will join forces with the Yolo County Master Gardeners on Sunday, Sept. 24 to present a free workshop on "Pollinator Gardening."
The event takes place from 10 a.m. to noon in the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, UC Davis campus.
They'll tell you how to enrich your environment with bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.
They offer these points on their UC Davis Arboretum website:
- Learn why creating pollinator-friendly habitats in your home landscape is of the utmost environmental importance
- Gain knowledge about the top, locally-appropriate plants for attracting hummingbirds, bees and butterflies
- Find information specific to native pollinators and attracting certain species to your garden
- Tour the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden's newest pollinator-friendly gardens
- Get the latest landscape water conservation tips, news and more from the City of Davis
- Take a pre-sale nursery tour courtesy of Nursery Manager Taylor Lewis (Actual plant sales will not be taking place until our first plant sale event on October 7.)
- Prep your shopping list for the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden's upcoming fall plant sales
To those, we'd like to add three more reasons:
- It's a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. It's about the passion, persistence and poetry of nature.
- It's exciting to see how many pollinators visit--or reside in--your garden. Plant 'em and they will come!
- It's indeed challenging, but highly rewarding to capture images of the pollinators (see below). It's also highly addictive.
Her name is Sarah Red-Laird, and she is here to present an interactive educational program involving bees and beekeeping, honey, beeswax and bee habitat to students from Peregrine School, Davis. It's part of her "Bees and Kids" program, funded by the American Beekeeping Federation's Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees.
She's speaking to them as part of the Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference, Sept. 5-8.
The students are super excited.
Holding up fruit after fruit, she asks if they like strawberries, apples, oranges and lemons, all bee-pollinated. They eagerly raise their hands. She tells them that bees are responsible for providing one-third of the food we eat, including fruits, vegetables and nuts (almonds). Our shopping carts would be sparse if there were no bees, she says. She quizzes them about grapes, rice and oats, which are not bee-pollinated.
Then she turns to honey.
"How much honey does a bee make in her lifetime?" she asks. "Is it 1 cup, 1 teaspoon or 1/12th of a teaspoon? if you think it's one cup, raise your hand." Half a dozen hands shoot up.
"If you think it's one teaspoon, raise your hand." A few more raise their hands.
"If you think it's 1/12th of a teaspoon, raise your hand." One person responds.
"The correct answer," says Sarah the Bee Girl, "is 1/12th of a teaspoon. That's how much a honey bee makes in her lifetime."
"I guessed that!" yells a little girl.
"Did you?" Sarah asks, approvingly. "You're a smartie," she praises.
"We didn't," a boy laments.
Sarah continues. "How many flowers does it take the bees to make one pound of honey?" she asks, holding up a jar of honey.
The students respond with answers that range from 99 to 100 to 200 to 1000 to 2000 to 8000 to 1 billion.
"The correct answer is 2 million," she tells them. "it takes 2 million flowers to fill this one jar of honey."
Sarah drives home the point with: "The best thing to do to help bees is to plant flowers. Let's say it all together. what can you do to help bees?
"Plant flowers!" they chorus.
Later she reads a book and then asks them to answer questions about nurse bees, house bees, scout bees, guard bees, queen bees, foragers and drones. Each person who answers the question correctly is adorned with props depicting that bee.
The first graders love it! They gigle, laugh and cheer.
Next they move in small groups to the educational stations where they taste honey, learn about bee habitat and bees wax, and see honey bees and other bees up close.
It's obvious that Sarah loves bees and wants others to love them, too.
Sarah says her love of bees began in Southern Oregon, on the deck of her aunt's cabin, at the end of a country road. She received her degree, with honors, in resource conservation from the University of Montana and did research in Jerry Bromenshenk Honey Bee Lab. She presented her beekeeping findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research on "How to Keep 100,000 Girlfriends, the Careful Relationship of a Beekeeper and Her Honey Bees."
Among the UC Davis personnel assisting her at the haven were:
- Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who caught and released bees with a device that included a magnifying glass
- Staff research associates Bernardo Niño of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility/UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who staffed the beeswax table, where children drew pictures with crayons
- Staff research associate and Charley Nye of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility/UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who staffed the habitat table, where the children learned about where the bees live.
- Zoe Anderson, a UC Davis undergraduate student majoring in animal biology, assisted with the honey tasting. The youths all agreed they liked Sarah's vetch honey the best.
You'll learn all about top-bar hives when Les Crowder of Austin, Texas, discusses "Major Considerations in Top Bar Hive Management" at the Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference, set Sept. 5-8 at the University of California, Davis.
Crowder will speak at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 7 in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). Registration is still open to attend the conference. See registration.
A top-bar hive is described as a single-story frameless bee hive with the comb hanging from removable bars.
Crowder and Heather Harrell co-authored the book, Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health, published by Chelsea Green Publishing Co. in 2012 and soon to be published in Spanish. He continues to teach and advocate nontoxic management of beehives.
Crowder says he began keeping bees--or the bees began keeping him--in Bernalillo, N.M., more than 40 years ago. "I began began looking for ways to raise bees without antibiotics in my teenage years and have been breeding honey bees for disease and parasite resistance since then. I also began early on to search for ways to regularly renew the combs in beehives because research indicated that old cocoon laden combs become havens for pathogenic fungi and bacteria that stress the bees' resistance to disease."
He built his first top-bar hive in 1979 and eventually begin using them exclusively for his 100-200 hive honey and beeswax business.
In his talk, Crowder will cover spring buildup, swarm prevention and making divides as a topbar beekeeper. In addition, he will compare and contrast top-bar hives with Langstroth hives.
Crowder served as president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association for many years. His credentials also include honey bee inspector for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, and beekeeping instructor "in many parts of the world for more than 30 years."
"There's a lot of interest in top-bar hives," said Western Apicultural Society president Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus based at UC Davis. He expects an enthusiastic crowd at the four-day conference, which will include a variety of speakers, tours, networking, and a silent auction. See schedule.
WAS, founded at UC Davis, is a non-profit, educational, beekeeping organization geared toward the benefit and enjoyment of all beekeepers in western North America, Mussen said. The group encourages membership from all over the world. However, the organization is specifically designed to meet the educational needs of beekeepers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming as well as the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the Yukon. Contact Mussen at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- YouTube videos on Top-Bar Hives:
Top-Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder
Top-Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder and Hearther Harrell (Chelsea Green Publishing Co.)
- Bee Culture journal article on top-bar beekeeping
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...