If you want to learn more about native bees, mark your calendar for Saturday, April 23.
That's when the Davis Science Collective, a group of STEM graduate students at UC Davis who like to get together and do science outreach in their spare time, will host an event from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Mary L. Stephens Branch of the Yolo County Public Library, 315 E. 14th St., Davis.
It's appropriately called “Native Bee Day,” and it's free and open to the public.
UC Davis graduate student Shahla Farzan says a variety of activities and live demonstrations will be offered, including:
- Pollen display
- Live mason bees and carpenter bees
- Bees vs. flies vs. wasps: What's the difference?
- How does pollination work?
- Bees of the world, courtesy of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis.
“It's more of an interactive event geared toward families, so we won't be having any formal talks,” Farzan said. “Instead, we're planning a variety of demonstrations and hands-on activities. For instance, we'll have an activity station where kids can learn how pollination works. First, the kids will cover their fingers in chalk dust (i.e. pollen) and collect plastic beads from inside tissue paper flowers (representing a nectar reward). As they collect 'nectar,' they'll transfer 'pollen' onto the flowers.”
Entomology graduate student Tricia Bohls of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be there to explain the differences between honey bees and native bees. Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis, will showcase carpenter bees at the live native bee table. Also exhibited will be blue orchard bees, affectionately known as BOBs.
For more information, access the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/985443778172006/
If you've ever wanted to taste exotic honeys (of course, you have!) and if you've ever wondered why native bees don't make honey (you have, haven't you?), then you're in luck.
The Honey and Pollination Center at the University of California, Davis, is hosting an international honey tasting event on Tuesday, April 5 in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (RMI) Sensory Theater, and you're invited.
The event, billed as The World of Honey--International Honey Tasting, will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at RMI, located on Old Davis Road, UC Davis campus.
Participants will experience four exotic international honeys: stingless bee honey from Brazil, coffee blossom from Guatemala, Viper's Bugloss from New Zealand, and chestnut honey from France.
Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, will lead the tasting. The event opens with a short talk and PowerPoint on stingless bees and native bees by Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Stingless bees were raised by the Mayans for honey," Harris says. "Today stingless bee honey production is very low."
In his talk,Thorp will discuss the diversity of bees (20,000 species in the world) and why most bees do not produce honey. He also will cover "which ones produce honey that we do harvest, primarily bees of the genus Apis and some of the many stingless bees."
Student tickets are $12.50, while tickets for UC Davis affiliates are $25, and $30 for the general public. To registrar, access the Honey and Pollination Center website at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/190 or contact Elizabeth Luu at firstname.lastname@example.org or Amina Harris at email@example.com. The last day to register online is Sunday, April 3.
The two-year global assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) lamented the decline in pollinators due to such human-driven factors as habitat loss, pesticides, and malnutrition. These and other culprits, including pests, invasive species and climate change, can mean extinction of many species.
Major news organizations quickly sought input from experts, including two UC Davis entomologists: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, who was interviewed by KGO Radio, San Francisco, and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology, who provided comments to The Washington Post.
It's not only the pollinators that are under siege. So are "the livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies," according to the Feb. 26 IPBES report.
The assessment, "Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production," is the first issued by the four-year-old IPBES, which spans 124 member nations. Seventy-seven experts participated, drawing information from 3000 scientific papers.
"Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security," said Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca, Ph.D., co-chair of the assessment and senior professor at the University of São Paulo. "Their health is directly linked to our own well-being."
Numbers released by IPBES help tell the story:
- 20,000 – Number of species of wild bees. There are also some species of butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other vertebrates that contribute to pollination.
- 75 Percent – Percentage of the world's food crops that depend at least in part on pollination.
- 235 billion to $577 billion – Annual value of global crops directly affected by pollinators.
- 300 Percent – Increase in volume of agricultural production dependent on animal pollination in the past 50 years.
- Almost 90 Percent – Percentage of wild flowering plants that depend to some extent on animal pollination.
- 1.6 million tons – Annual honey production from the western honeybee.
- 16.5 Percent – Percentage of vertebrate pollinators threatened with extinction globally.
- 40 Percent (plus) – Percentage of invertebrate pollinator species – particularly bees and butterflies – facing extinction.
"In addition to food crops, pollinators contribute to crops that provide biofuels (e.g. canola and palm oils), fibers (e.g cotton), medicines, forage for livestock, and construction materials. Some species also provide materials such as beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts," IPBES related.
The report indicated that pesticides, pests and diseases pose a special threat to managed bees "but the risk can be reduced through better disease detection and management, and regulations relating to trade and movement of bees."
Pollinators need to be protected, the report emphasized. We can help safeguard our pollinators by:
- Maintaining or creating greater diversity of pollinator habitats in agricultural and urban landscapes;
- Supporting traditional practices that manage habitat patchiness, crop rotation, and coproduction between science and indigenous local knowledge;
- Education and exchange of knowledge among farmers, scientists, industry, communities, and the general public;
- Decreasing exposure of pollinators to pesticides by reducing their usage, seeking alternative forms of pest control, and adopting a range of specific application practices, including technologies to reduce pesticide drift; and
- Improving managed bee husbandry for pathogen control, coupled with better regulation of trade and use of commercial pollinators
- A high diversity of wild pollinators contributes to increased stability in pollination, even when managed bees are present in high numbers.
- Crop yields depend on both wild and managed species.
- The western honey bee is the most widespread managed pollinator in the world, producing an estimated 1.6 million tons of honey annually.
- The number of beehives has increased globally over the past 50 years, but a decrease in hives has occurred in many European and North American countries.
- Climate change has led to changes in the distribution of many pollinating bumblebees and butterflies and the plants that depend upon them
Neal Williams explained to The Washington Post in an email: "Hospitable landscapes are ones where there are suitable nesting habitats for diverse pollinator species, and where consistent forage resources are accessible (within the flight range) of the bees throughout their flight seasons."
Robbin Thorp told KGO that "through agricultural intensification, we have a lost a lot of habitat for native pollinators." He advocated more nesting habitat for bees. And, he said, "we need to be cautious whenever we apply pesticides" because pesticides are designed to kill insects, and bees are insects.
Honey bees, Thorp said, are just one species of about 20,000 bees in the world. "Most native bees are solitary bees that nest in the ground. They don't have a queen, they don't make honey, but they are very important in our environment."
Protecting our pollinators is crucial. They are, as IPBES, said, "economically, socially and culturally important."
With your camera!
If you're into pollinators, plants and photography, and want to share your work nationally, here's a new project for you.
Bay Area native bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin, who launched the Wild Bee Gardens app (with identification assistance from consultants, including native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis), alerted us to the contest.
It is "designed to raise awareness about the dazzling diversity of North America's native bees and other pollinators," she said, "and to engage residents from coast to coast in the vital and rewarding business of creating a continental tapestry of wild bee gardens,"
CFS, headquartered in Washington, D.C., with branch offices in San Francisco, Honolulu and Portland (Ore.) describes itself as "a national non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy organization working to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS also educates consumers concerning the definition of organic food and products."
Judges will choose numerous winners, and each will receive a free Wild Bee Gardens app to keep, or give as a gift, "so that you can share your enthusiasm for wild bees and their gardens with your friends and families," Ets-Hokin said. Winners also will receive a pollinator swag bag from CFS.
Want to learn more about the submission guidelines and selection criteria? Access http://centerforfoodsafety-wildbees.tumblr.com . The deadline to submit photos is April 17.
If you can't identify the pollinator, not to worry. After the judges select the winners, Thorp will identify the bees. He's a co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday), along with colleagues Gordon Frankie, Rollin Coville and Barbara Ertter. Thorp also co-authored Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide (Princeton University Press).
Speaking of bumble bees, they seem to be quite scarce this year. We saw our first black-tailed bumble bee (Bombus melanopygus) of the season on March 15 on Spanish lavender in Vacaville.
Where, oh where, is that first bumble bee of the year?
It's about this time of the year when the queen black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, and the queen yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, emerge.
One of our area readers asked if there's a chart or calendar indicating what time of year the various native bees emerge. One of the best sources is native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. (By the way, he's giving a public presentation on native bees at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24 at Solano County's Rush Ranch Nature Center, Suisun City. All interested persons are invited; there's no admission.)
"Each species of bee has its own particular season," Thorp says. "Some start in late winter to early spring, others start late spring, early summer. Some don't fly until fall. Some bees, especially our social bees (honey bees, bumble bees and some sweat bees) fly most of the flowering year (January-February into October-November)."
"It's probably best to frame the bee calendar in context of the bloom of various plants," Thorp points out. "Manzanita is one of the first flowering shrubs and when they come in to bloom that is the time to look for queens of our two early bumble bee species, Bombus melanopygus and B. vosnesenskii. Some of our large digger bees like Habropoda and some Anthophora come on during that bloom. In the vernal pools, early flowering starts in late February and some of our solitary ground nesting mining bees, Andrena start about then. When the red bud comes into bloom about mid-March the Blue Orchard Bee (BOB), some other species of bumble bees, and some sweat bees come out. Leafcutting bees (Megachile) and some long-horned digger bees (Melissodes and Svastra) start their activity about mid-May. "
A great book to learn about native bees and the flowers they visit is the newly published California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). It's co-authored by Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville and Barbara Ertter, all with UC Berkeley connections.
For example, if you look up manzanita (genus Arctostaphylos and family Ericaceae), in California Bees and Blooms, you'll see that there are more than 90 species and subspecies in California, and you'll learn which bees visit them. The authors provide a description of the plant, its origin and natural habitat, its range and use in urban California, its flowering season (late winter to early spring), the resources it provides for bees (pollen and nectar), bee ecology and behavior, and gardening tips.
The book is a treasure.
As are the bees!