The European honey bee, also known as the Western honey bee, has been in the United States for s-o-o-o long that we think it's a native.
It's not. European colonists brought the honey bee (Apis mellifera) to the Jamestown colony (Virginia) in 1622. The native Americans called it "the white man's fly." And the honey bee wasn't even introduced to California until 1853. That was in the middle of the California Gold Rush, 1848-1858, when it arrived in the San Jose area.
Our ancestors quickly became quite fond of the industrious little pollinator and honey/wax producer buzzing around them.
Today, as they did, we frequently see non-native and native bees sharing nectar resources, such as in the photos below of honey bees and yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii).
We're often asked: "Do honey bees, being an invasive species, impact the native bees?"
We put that question to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's served as California's Extension apiculturist since 1976, almost 40 years.
His answer: "We do not have a definitive answer to that question. But, since honey bees have been living in what is now the U.S. for just short of 400 years, it is likely that honey bees and native bees determined, long ago, how to partition resources at any particular location so that both species survived. It is true that only honey bees can be moved into and out of a specific location overnight, and that might put a stress on local populations of native bees, but I never have heard of honey bees eliminating native bees from any particular spot."
That's the buzz on bees.
The boys won't be back in town for awhile.
But they will show up. Girls, too.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, and his UC Berkeley-affiliated colleagues, Gordon Frankie, Rollin Coville, Sara Leon Guerrero and Jaime Pawalek, will show you where both the native male and female bees are during their June 4-8 workshop in Hastings Reserve, Carmel Valley, on "California's Native Bees: Biology, Ecology and Identification."
You'll learn how to identify California's native bees by genus and why it's critical to provide ecosystem services in not only wild habitats but in agricultural and urban settings. More than 1600 species comprise California's list of native bees. (And if you're thinking the honey bee is one of them--not! European colonists brought the honey bee to what is now the United States (Virginia) in 1622. The honey bee was introduced in California in 1853.)
If you join the workshop, you'll collect bees in the field at the UC Hastings Reserve and at a nearby diverse garden in Carmel Valley, according to the website. Then you'll also spend time in the lab viewing and keying collected specimens. Evening lectures on a variety of related topics will add to the field experiences. This workshop is an extension of the previously offered weekend bee workshop, with more focus on bee identification."
"Bee collections from the Hastings Reserve date back several decades, so knowledge of important bee-flower relationships are well known for this site. Participants will learn about bees' flower preferences, how to collect bees using several different methods, information on how to build a bee-friendly garden, bee photography techniques, and bee identification using generic keys and microscopes."
Frankie, Thorp, Coville and Barbara Ertter recently co-authored a California bee garden book, expected to be published in the fall of 2014 (Heydon). The working title is "California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists."
Of the four authors, Thorp, Frankie and Coville received their doctorates in entomology from UC Berkeley. Errter obtained a doctorate in biology from the City University of New York.
Thorp, who maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, taught a number of courses while on the UC Davis faculty: entomology, natural history of insects, insect classification, California insect diversity, and pollination ecology. Although he retired in 1994, he continues his research on ecology, systematics, biodiversity, conservation, and biology of bees. Thorp is also on the faculty of The Bee Course.
Frankie is a professor of insect biology at UC Berkeley who focuses his research on plant reproductive biology, pollination ecology, and solitary-bee biology. He splits his field research between California and Costa Rica.
Ertter has served as the curator of Western North American Flora, University Herbarium and Jepson Herbarium, UC Berkeley, since 1994. She focuses her research on the flora of western North America.
One thing's for sure: they'll share a wealth of information about native bees at this workshop!
If you want to learn about what bees do, and how gardeners can support healthy pollinator populations through simple gardening practice, then this is for you: Your Sustainable Backyard: Pollinator Gardening.
Sponsored by the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH), it's a workshop set from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 28 on the UC Davis campus. It's for all who love gardening, says coordinator Melissa "Missy" Gable, program manager of CCUH.
"This workshop is designed both to inspire gardeners and equip them with all the necessary tools to provision pollinating insects in their own landscape," Gable says. "Without the pollination services of European honey bees and native bees, what fruits and vegetables would be accessible to us?"
The first part will include talks by entomologists, horticulturists and design experts from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Room 101 of Giedt Hall.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, and Dave Fujino, executive director of CCHU, will welcome the crowd from 8:45 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, will speak on "Bees 101: Species Diversity and Behavior" from 9 to 4:45 a.m. Then , pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology at UC Davis, will discuss "Importance of Pollinators and Conservation."
Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture at the UC Davis Arboretum will cover "Bee Plants" from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The last workshop speaker, Vicki Wojcik, associate program manager of Pollinator Partnership will zero in on "Pollinator Gardening: Design and Maintenance" from12:30 to 1:15 p.m.
Following the formal presentations, participants are invited to (1) tour the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, and (2) visit the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery, where they can see the pollinator demonstration beds and have an opportunity to buy plants at a specially held sale inside the nursery. Members of the Friends of the Arboretum will receive a 10 percent discount.
Both the haven and the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery will be open from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Thorp and Gable will be at the haven to answer questions during the self-guided tours, and Zagory will be on hand in the teaching nursery's demonstration gardens to field questions.
The registration fee of $45 registration includes parking, morning coffee/tea, scones and a gourmet boxed lunch. See registration site.
This definitely is "the place to bee."
Not all floral visitors are bees.
That's why we're glad to see the publication of Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees.
It will introduce folks to such native bees as leafcutter bees, sweat bees and bumble bees.
It's co-authored by retired biologist Beatriz Moisset of Willow Grove, Pa., and entomologist Stephen Buchmann, international coordinator of the Pollinator Partnership, based in San Francisco. The illustrations, based on Buchmann's photos, are by Steve Buchanan of Wingsted, Conn., known for creating the U.S. Postal Service’s pollinator stamps that were issued June 29, 2007.
“From forests to farms, from cities to wildlands, there are 4000 native bee species in the United States, from the tiny Perdita minima to large carpenter bees,” they wrote.
“The honey bee, remarkable as it is, does not know how to pollinate tomato or eggplant flowers. It does very poorly compared to native bees when pollinating many native plants, such as pumpkins, cherries, blueberries, and cranberries.”
The book includes descriptions and illustrations of bees from such families as Apidae, Andrenidae, Halictidae, Megachilidae and Colletidae.
They wrote: “The members of the five most common families, Apidae, Halictidae, Andrenidae, Megachilidae and Colletidae, can be found throughout the North American continent from Canada and Alaska to warm and sunny Florida and Mexico; from forests to deserts; from remote wildernesses to gardens and backyards; even the National Mall in the heart of our nation’s capital sports a native bee fauna. Perhaps the only places where bees are absent are the high mountains.”
“There is even a hardy little bee, the arctic bumble bee, which lives within the Arctic Circle.”
The booklet also offers tips on how to attract pollinators. A great resource!
Steve Buchmann, of Tucson, Ariz., received his doctorate in entomology from the University of California, Davis with major professor Robbin Thorp. Now an adjunct faculty member in the entomology and EEB (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) departments at the University of Arizona, Buchmann is the author of 150 scientific publications and 12 bbooks, including The Forgotten Pollinators.
Beatriz Moisset, born in Argentina and a resident of the United States for more than 40 years, obtained her doctorate in biology from the University of Cordoba, Argentina. She completed her postdoctoral work at the Jackson Laboratories, Bar Harbor, Maine studying neurochemistry and behavior. A multitalented person (she's an artist, photographer, author and public speaker), she has displayed her pastels and oil paintings at many art shows and contributes her insect photography to the online resource BugGuide.Net.
“I became interested in pollinators after my retirement, combining photography and painting with field observations,” Moisset said.
The book, a USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership Publication, can be ordered from the Pollinator Partnership website for a small donation.
First you give them roots, then you give them wings.
That's what's happening in our bee condo, a wooden block (nest) with drilled holes for leafcutting bees (Megachile).
They flew in, laid their eggs, provisioned the nests with pollen and leaf fragments, and capped the holes.
We had 11 tenants. Now there's a hole in one.
Success! A leafcutting bee emerged. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says that "Some leafcutting bees, especially the introduced ones like the alfalfa leafcutting bee, have more than one generation per year. Bees of the second and third generation may clean out or partly clean out old nest holes like this and construct a new nest inside. Sometimes you can find new leaf material inside the old cocoon of the previous nest builder. Thus, the tunnels get smaller in diameter with succeeding generations. Kind of like the build up of old cocoons in honey bee comb and resulting smaller inner diameter of the brood cells in old dark comb."
It's all rather exciting being a "beekeeper." We've never had a hole in one--'til now.
If you, too, want to keep native bees, Thorp has compiled a list of where you can buy homes for them or where you can learn how to build your own. The list is on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research facility website.
You can also buy them at beekeeping supply stores.
Now that we have a hole in one, 10 tenants to go...