A spectacular pollinator garden that's a "must-see" is Kate Frey's pollinator garden at Sonoma Cornerstone.
Kate Frey, a world-class pollinator garden designer, pollinator advocate and author who addressed the UC Davis Bee Symposium in March on "Designing Bee Friendly Gardens," has created a masterpiece. And yes, the pollinator garden is open to the public--no admission fee.
We visited the garden last Saturday and saw a pipevine swallowtail nectaring on Nepeta tuberosa, yellow-faced bumble bees sipping nectar from Stachys bullata, hummingbirds scoring nectar from salvia, and honey bees foraging on everything from Scabiosa "Fama Blue" to a native milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.
This is a happy place.
As she told the crowd at the Bee Symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology: Whether you plant them, nurture them, or walk through them, bee gardens make us happy.
Frey's sign at the Sonoma pollinator garden explains that "All the plants offer food resources of pollen and nectar for pollinators such as native bees, honey bees, hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Pollen is a protein, mineral and fat source and is primarily a larval food for bees, while nectar is composed of various sugars and is the main food for pollinators and the adult life stage of many beneficial insects. Pollinators need a continuous food source for many months of the year. This garden contains a range of plants that will bloom in succession from early spring to late fall."
Frey's sign also noted that "Pollinators all have preferred plants they feed from, and flowers cater to specific pollinators. Some flower shapes are designed to exclude unwanted pollinators. The long, constricted floral tubes of honeysuckles or many salvia exhibit their focus on hummingbirds as primary pollinators. Other flowers nectar, like coffee berry is easily accessible to all pollinators. This garden contains a wide range of plants to appear to a variety of pollinators. Over 80 percent of flowering plants require insect or animal pollination. What insects or birds do you see visiting each flower type?"
Well, let's see: bees, butterflies, and birds...Apis mellifera, Battus philenor, Bombus vosnesenskii, Papilio rutulus, Calypte anna...
"The same plants that support pollinators," Frey indicated on the sign, "also make us happy."
They do! Happiness is a pollinator garden...
Just call it "Fire and Fury in a Pollinator Garden."
That would be the firecracker red flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata.
They fly into our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif., attracted by the lily-padded pond and the all-you-can-eat buffet of flying insects.
They snag their prey in flight--usually a native bee or syprhid fly--and perch on a bamboo stake to eat it.
Table for one, please! No, waiter, I don't need a napkin. Thank you, though.
Native to North America, they are a delight to see and photograph. Sometimes they allow multiple close-up images and that's when we turn into a paparazzi! (To be honest, we'd rather take images of low-flying dragonflies than of high-profile people.)
Their flight reminds us of helicopters. Firecracker red helicopters.
If you've ever thought about the dragonfly being a perfect design for a helicopter, you'd be right.
Check out the website, "Design and the Universe," for its informative piece on "The Dragonfly: The Inspiration for the Helicopter."
"The wings of the dragonfly cannot be folded back on its body. In addition, the way in which the muscles for flight are used in the motion of the wings differs from the rest of insects. Because of these properties, evolutionists claim that dragonflies are "primitive insects."
"In contrast, the flight system of these so-called 'primitive insects' is nothing less than a wonder of design. The world's leading helicopter manufacturer, Sikorsky, finished the design of one of their helicopters by taking the dragonfly as a model.6 IBM, which assisted Sikorsky in this project, started by putting a model of a dragonfly in a computer (IBM 3081). Two thousand special renderings were done on computer in the light of the manoeuvres of the dragonfly in air. Therefore, Sikorsky's model for transporting personnel and artillery was built upon examples derived from dragonflies."
"The body of a dragonfly looks like a helical structure wrapped with metal. Two wings are cross-placed on a body that displays a colour gradation from ice blue to maroon. Because of this structure, the dragonfly is equipped with superb manoeuvrability. No matter at what speed or direction it is already moving, it can immediately stop and start flying in the opposite direction. Alternatively, it can remain suspended in air for the purpose of hunting. At that position, it can move quite swiftly towards its prey. It can accelerate up to a speed that is quite surprising for an insect: 25mph (40km/h), which would be identical to an athlete running 100 metres in the Olympics at 24.4mph (39km/h).
"At this speed, it collides with its prey. The shock of the impact is quite strong. However, the armoury of the dragonfly is both very resistant and very flexible. The flexible structure of its body absorbs the impact of collision. However, the same cannot be said for its prey. The dragonfly's prey would pass out or even be killed by the impact."
"Following the collision, the rear legs of dragonfly take on the role of its most lethal weapons. The legs stretch forward and capture the shocked prey, which is then swiftly dismembered and consumed by powerful jaws."
As for our little male flameskimmer, our firecracker red dragonfly, we watched him ambush prey, unleashing his special brand of fire and fury in a pollinator garden.
Fire and fury in a pollinator garden...
It's Thanksgiving Day and time to give thanks for NOT what we WANT, but what we HAVE.
And, not for what we OWN, but what we CANNOT.
That includes the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
On the morning of Nov. 12, we traveled to the Sonoma Cornerstone, Sonoma, to check the plants and pollinators in Kate Frey's amazing pollinator garden. Kate Frey, co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden" (with UC San Francisco professor Gretchen LeBuhn), is a world-class garden designer and pollinator advocate.
Flashback to Sept. 23, the last time we visited the Frey garden. We noticed monarch butterflies, painted ladies, honey bees and--one bumble bee, a hungry queen Bombus vosnesenskii, newly emerged from winter hibernation to grab something to eat. Sometimes on warm sunny days, the queens will disrupt their hibernation to search for nectar. They. Are. Hungry.
At 12:30 on Nov. 12, the temperature rose to 62 degrees.
And then we saw her, The Queen. The Queen. Resplendent in gold and black, she buzzed loudly toward the spiked floral purple plant, Salvia indigo spires (Salvia farinacea x S. farinacea). Honey bees quickly moved out of her way as she claimed the nectar, all of it. Her wings glowed in the sunlight and her buzz seemed loud enough to break the sound barrier.
Is there anything more bee-utiful?
One bumble bee. One queen. A royal moment.
One of Buck Owens' signature songs that never failed to please his fan base was "I Got a Tiger by the Tail."
The Country-Hall-of-Fame singer, who died in 2006 at age 76, said the lyrics came to him after he noticed a gas station sign advertising "Put a tiger in your tank." (Source: Wikipedia)
"I've got a tiger by the tail, it's plain to see," sang Buck Owens. "I won't be much when you get through with me..."
Well, he's not the only one with a "tiger by the tail."
We recently spotted male longhorn bees, probably Melissodes agilis, targeting Western tiger swallowtails, Papilio rutulus, in our family's pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. The butterflies were trying to sip nectar from the 8 to 10-foot-high Mexican sunflowers (genus Tithonia).
Who knew that sipping nectar could be so difficult? The extremely territorial male longhorn bees kept trying to push the "tigers" off the Tithonia by dive-bombing them, slamming into them, and then regrouping for more aerial assaults. Their goal: to save the resources for their own species.
And then it happened. A longhorn bee slid through a tiger's tail.
A tiger by the tail.
It was not a good way to welcome an admiral.
The Red Admiral butterfly, that is.
The Vanessa atalanta fluttered into our pollinator garden on Sunday, July 16 in Vacaville, Calif., and touched down on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
The warmth of the sun, the rich nectar, a soft breeze, and all was well.
For a little while.
Several territorial male long-horned bees spied the stranger and pulled out the welcome mat. In a frenzy, they began dive-bombing the colorful black and red butterfly, trying to chase it away. "Those flowers are for our girls!" they seemed to say. "Leave! Now!"
Everywhere the butterfly went, a squadron of bombers followed. The sailboat-like wings proved a clear target.
One bullet-of-a-bee, probably a Melissodes agilis, slammed into the butterfly's wings, and that was enough.
"This pollinator garden's not big enough for both of us!"