California Naturalist
California Naturalist
California Naturalist
University of California
California Naturalist

ANR Green Blog

Twelve rules of thumb for creating a bee-friendly home landscape this fall

An example of pollinator-friendly plants at the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Garden located at the UC Davis campus. (Photo : Evett Kilmartin ©UC Regents)
California's agriculture, plants and wildflowers depend on bees (and other pollinators) for pollination. Tiny, buzzing bees are not only fun to watch zoom around the garden, but they are crucial to our food supply and ecosystem.

“Fall, with its cooler temperatures, shorter days, and imminent rainfall, is the best time to plant a bee garden in California. Much of the plants' growth at this time will be in the roots rather than the vegetative growth, and that gives new plants an advantage when temperatures warm up and the soil dries in the spring. Fall and winter are usually the wet seasons in California, and a bee garden will benefit from the natural pattern of rainfall that helps plants get established,” according to California Bee-Friendly Garden Recipes (Pawelek et al. 2015)

With fall being the perfect time for planting consider making your home landscape bee-friendly and follow UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Bee-Friendly Garden Recipes - 12 rules of thumb for creating a bee-friendly home landscape:

  1. Learn the seasonality of plants and bees.
    Bees need both pollen and nectar resources from plants all year long. Sugary nectar provides energy for adult bees, and protein-rich pollen is used to feed their young. Plant not only a variety of plants (to ensure both pollen and nectar resources) but also make sure that they bloom at different times throughout the year, with the most active times of bees in garden running from February to October.

  2. Provide a diversity of floral hosts.
    A large variety of plants in a garden attracts a more diverse bee population. UC ANR researchers recommend planning a minimum of 20 different plant types to provide plenty of nectar and pollen sources for bees. If space or resources don't allow, consider plants that provide both nectar and pollen resources such as seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus), blanketflower (Gaillardia x grandiflora), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

  3. Give structure to the garden.
    When planning your garden arrange plants so it is easy to observe the bees that are visiting your landscape. Place taller plants or shrubs in the back and smaller or shorter plants in the front. Or you can plant in the shape of an island to allow viewing from all sides.

  4. Plant in the sun.
    Typically bees prefer flowers in the sunshine over the shade. Monitor the amount and location of sun in your home landscape and plant sun-loving bee-attractive plants in the sunniest section of your yard.

  5. Plant shrubs, perennials and annuals in patches.
    Most bees will visit one type or a few types of flowers each time they forage, an abundance of the same flower variety allows for more efficient foraging for bees. The California Bee-Friendly Garden Recipes publication recommends a 3.5 ft x 3.5 ft flower patch of the same variety.

  6. Don't forget to seed annuals.
    Plant seeds for spring blooming annuals and bulbs in the fall and take advantage of the winter rains and provide beautiful flowers in the spring. Great options include sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), and zinnia (Zinnia elegans).

  7. Maintain flowers.
    Prolong a plant's blooming season by dead-heading. As soon as flowers begin to fade, wither and brown, pinch or cut-off the flower stem below the flower or right above the first set of healthy leaves. This allows the plant to continue to invest in producing more blooms and not seeds.

  8. Create a watering regimen.
    Regular watering of plants during blooming season allows plants to produce more flowers for a longer period of time. If a plant is water stressed it won't produce new flowers and nectar and pollen production declines. Consider plants that thrive in California's dry Mediterranean climate, UC Berkeley's Urban Bee Lab offers a list of the best bee plants with a large selection of California native options.

  9. Do not use pesticides!
    Applying pesticides to your home landscape can kill beneficial insects and bugs visiting your garden, including bees. Consider using integrated pest management practices that are natural or organic methods like hand-picking, spraying with water or natural insecticides. Contact your local UCCE Master Gardener Program to learn more about integrated pest management.

  10. Consider plant climate zones.
    Consider right plant, right place when selecting plants for your home landscape. Most gardening books, websites, plant labels and seed packets refer to a plants hardiness zone, climate zone or growing zone. Become familiar with the climate or microclimate in your area, the USDA Plant Hardiness Map and the Sunset Zone Map are a great starting guide for determining what plants will thrive in your garden space.

  11. Provide homes for nesting bees.
    A bee-friendly garden provides cover and a safe place for bees to raise young. Most bee habitats are either in the ground or in pre-existing cavities. Provide a nesting home for bees in your garden by leaving a small section of your landscape unmulched for ground-nesting bees. Nesting blocks, drilled holes in untreated wood or “bee-condos” can be offered to bees that prefer a pre-existing cavity habitat.

  12. Provide nesting materials, including a water source.
    Bees build their nests with mud, plant leaves and resins. Bees require a water source to not only drink but also to make mud for nest building. Fill a shallow water dish or birdbath to your garden, add small rocks or a floating cork for bees to rest and to prevent drowning.

Learn more with UC ANR and the UC Master Gardener Program

Create a bee-friendly garden with a variety of flowering plants, blooming seasons, nesting locations and a water reosource. Photo credit: Evett Kilmartin ©UC Regents
Learn about some of the 1,600 native bees in California at UC ANR's Native Bee Workshop, Saturday Sept. 17 at the Hopland Research and Extension Center. Attendees will learn from Dr. Gordon Frankie and Dr. Rollin Coville, UC Berkeley's Urban Bee Lab, how to identify bees and meet the needs of bees in the garden.

Interested in learning more about how to grow a buzzing bee-friendly garden? The UC Master Gardener Program has University trained volunteers who are eager to help. Volunteers are available to answer questions about preparing your soil, plant selection, pest management, and more. With local programs based in more than 50 counties across California and thousands of workshops a year there is sure to be an event or class near you. Visit our website to find your local UC Master Gardener Program, mg.ucanr.edu.  

Resources:

Pawelek, Jaime C., Frankie, Gordon W., Frey, Kate, Leon Guerrero, Sara, and Schindler, Mary. 2015. “California Bee Friendly Garden Recipes.” ANR Publication 8518, http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8518.pdf

Ponder, Marissa, Frankie, Gordon W., Elkins, Rachel, Frey, Kate, Coville, Rollin, Schindler, Mary, Pawelek, Jaime, and Shaffer, Carolyn. 2013. “How to Attract and Maintain Pollinators in your Garden.” ANR Publication 8518, http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8498.pdf

UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, www.helpabee.org

Pollinator partnership, www.pollinator.org

Posted on Friday, September 16, 2016 at 11:46 AM

UCCE advisor publishes third exciting children’s book

Nursing back to health a calf mauled by wolves in River of No Return, 11-year-old Jack learned essential skills that would serve him well as the third and final book of the Black Rock Desert Trilogy children's series unfolds. The novel opens with a touch of danger and distress, but ends with fast moving high adventure as it reaches its exciting conclusion.

River of No Return, written by UC Cooperative Extension advisor Rachael Freeman Long, chronicles the third summer at the family cabin for Jack, where he meets up with his animal pals from the previous books: Pinta the bat and Sonny the coyote. The trio were introduced in Gold Fever, and reunited in Valley of Fire. In River of No Return, Jack, Pinta and Sonny team up with other animal friends and foes – including Lux and Lacy the wolves and Midas the raven – to defeat and bring to justice the last of a band of poachers tormenting wildlife in the Black Rock Desert.

The loss of Sonny's loving parents, Lux's near fatal injuries, and the dark rage of Sarge, a greedy Air Force veteran who is willing to poach endangered species to become “the richest man in the world,” sets a somber stage. But Jack's commitment to his animal friends, his courage and ingenuity take the sting out of the story, even as he braves pitch dark tunnels, a raging underground river, and dreadful villains. Riveted as the novel unfolds, children may not realize that they are learning about wildlife and natural history.

All three books in the Black Rock Desert Trilogy are peppered with facts about animals, but Long gives bats, a focus of her agricultural research for UC Cooperative Extension, the spotlight. For example, readers learn that Pinta the pallid bat has big, pink ears that twitch constantly as they echolocate, when using sound waves to see in the dark. Later, Pinta tells Jack, “Remember, we migrate to the desert southwest during wintertime where it's warmer and there's plenty to eat.” Readers also learn that bats pollinate flowers, when Pinta turns yellow with pollen.

Long originally created the characters in the Black Rock Desert Trilogy to entertain her then two-year-old son during long commutes. He is now in college.

“The characters have been in my head for 20 years,” Long said. “It's sad to let them go.”

She may be hanging up the tale of Jack, Pinta and Sonny, but Long plans to keep writing children's books. Her new series, called Animal Adventures, will begin with A is for Alligator, in which two 8-year-old boys visit a city zoo.

“They wonder what it's like in the animals' natural habitat, and a portal takes them to the Everglades, where they learn everything they need to know about alligators,” Long said.

The series will continue, next is B is for Bear, for 26 volumes, one for each letter of the alphabet.

“I'm hoping to do something fun and teach kids about our natural world,” Long said. “There are a lot of books that are negative about school and authority. My series will focus on courage, resilience and goodness.”

All of Long's books are available on Amazon.com.

Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2016 at 9:20 AM
Tags: Rachael Long (6)

Communities reel in revenue from sport fishing

In 2015, fishing tournaments were held at Clear Lake on 121 days.
Angling is a multi-million dollar recreational affair in California that local businesses can capitalize on, says UC Cooperative Extension advisor.
 

In August, the Clayton Fire burned nearly 4,000 acres and 198 homes and businesses in Lake County. In 2015, the Valley, Rocky and Jerusalem fires together burned 170,623 acres and destroyed 2,078 structures. But the devastating Lake County wildfires haven't put a damper on fishing at Clear Lake, which reels in roughly $1 million to the community annually, according to a report from UC Cooperative Extension.

“The lake's economic attraction has not been negatively impacted by the fires,” said Greg Giusti, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Lake County and author of the study. “The fish are fine and the anglers keep coming.”

Giusti's report outlines the economic value of fishing on Clear Lake, highlighting the importance of the outdoor pastime to the local economy.

Bass, crappie, catfish and bluegill thrive in Clear Lake's warm water, with its rich plant life and abundant food supply.

“People come from all over the country to fish Clear Lake,” said Giusti, who studies fisheries and freshwater ecology.

Teeming with fish, Clear Lake's reputation attracts serious anglers. Bass Master Magazine (July/August 2016) rated Clear Lake third out of the top 100 bass fishing lakes in the country and first among the nine western states.

Adam Giusti holds a fish he caught at Clear Lake. Each angler spends $58 per day on average, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More data need to estimate true economic value of fishing

Based on a conservative estimate of the number of anglers and multiplying by $58.16, (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's estimate of an angler's average daily fishing-related expenditure), Giusti concluded Clear Lake fishing is a $1 million enterprise. He considers the true value of fishing on Clear Lake to be much higher because limited data was available to understand the full economic value.

To estimate the number of anglers, Giusti doubled the number of quagga mussel stickers sold and added the number of people registered for Clear Lake fishing tournaments. Before entering the lake, boats must pass the county's monthly quagga mussel inspection for the invasive species and receive the sticker. Giusti assumed an average of two anglers per boat, for a total of 10,156 spending $590,673 annually. Since 6,498 Lake County residents have fishing licenses, he estimated that they spend at least $377,923.68 on fishing annually.

He thinks local businesses can capitalize on fishing to bring even more revenue into the community by enticing anglers and their families to engage in other activities during their visit.

“Because access to the lake is open and free, we don't know how often anglers return to Clear Lake and for how long they stay,” Giusti said. “While they're here, folks are spending money on food, gas, tackle and maybe lodging. If they bring their families, Dad may be fishing while Mom and the kids might be at the movies.”

California Department of Fish and Wildlife collects about $57 million in fishing license sales each year. Giusti found that more than 150,000 licenses were sold in 2014 to anglers in Lake County and neighboring Mendocino, Sonoma, Colusa and Sacramento counties, which are close enough to make a day trip to Clear Lake.

Businesses should market to anglers in spring and fall, says report author and fishing enthusiast Greg Giusti.
Opportunities to catch more angler dollars

Although local businesses typically gear up for summer tourists, Giusti sees marketing opportunities around fishing during the spring and fall, as the primary angling months occur before and after summer.

“Right now all the focus is on summer tourism and wine, while the most active visitor months are not recognized,” Giusti said. “Spring months are the most popular boating months. Businesses should be hanging banners downtown, putting posters in the windows welcoming anglers with specials for meals, promotional events highlighting fishing, and even sponsored fishing tournaments.”

Other California communities could also benefit by capitalizing on fishing, in Giusti's opinion.

“Freshwater fishing in California represents a $1.4 billion industry, generating 22,000 jobs and providing more than $920 million in salaries and wages,” said Giusti. “California ranks fifth in the nation based on the value of fishing economics.”

The American Sportfishing Association estimates that more than 33 million people enjoy fishing in America, and spend an average of $1,441 per year on fishing.

To download the full report, “Understanding the economic value of angling on Clear Lake – A profile of a famous lake,” visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/ClearLakeAquaticWebsite.

 

Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 2:08 PM
Tags: economics (1), fishing (1), Greg Giusti (5), Lake County (2)

Community invited to explore redwood issues in Eureka Sept 13-15

Foresters, landowners, managers, community and conservation groups, land trustees, scientists and policymakers will meet Sept. 13 to 15 in Eureka for the 2016 Coast Redwood Science Symposium.

The symposium, which first convened in Humboldt County in 1996, will feature 70 speakers, 25 poster presentations and three field trips to explore the redwood forests of the North Coast.

“The general public may be interested in attending this conference because it provides a look at the current state of redwood forest management,” said Yana Valachovic, University of California Cooperative Extension forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties. “This symposium will allow attendees to learn more about how forests are managed today and see the tremendous changes in both private and public land management.”

From Brookings, Ore., to Big Sur, redwoods grow in a variety of habitats and conditions. On the field trips, participants will get to see both conservation and industrial aspects of old growth and timber forests.

One tour will visit the City of Arcata Community Forest. Community members use the actively managed forest on a daily basis.

A lot can be learned from both private and public land-management strategies and it is critical that the policies and strategies guiding use and management within the redwood region be reviewed and updated based on objective, scientific information, said Valachovic.

“We will discuss changes in milling, manufacturing and energy-producing facilities within the redwood range,” said Valachovic.  “Over the last 20 years, there has been a great reduction in these facilities and this comes with a cost because the same infrastructure that supports lumber manufacturing also supports restoration activities.”

In the wake of several catastrophic wildfires this summer, it has been widely publicized that drought, disease and insects have killed more than 66 million trees in California. One place to dispose of dead trees is biomass power plants, which burn low-value forest materials to generate energy for homes and businesses. At the symposium, participants will discuss the impact of recent closures of bioenergy or biomass power plants

When Californians buy redwood building products, the money circulates locally and provides an economic incentive to steward and conserve local forests, says Valachovic.

On Wednesday, Sept. 14, three full-day tours are offered:

  • North Tour. Redwood National and State Parks and Green Diamond Resource Company will highlight redwood thinning practices. The tour will travel north to the Orick area of Redwood National and State Parks to look at restoration forestry practices designed to enhance structural diversity of younger even-aged forests. The afternoon will be spent walking in the Korbel area, viewing Green Diamond's commercial thinning of third-growth forests and wildlife management strategies in managed landscapes.
  • Redwood is widely known for its durability and decay resistance.
    Humboldt Bay Tour.  The City of Arcata, the County of Humboldt, and several private landowners will show participants modern conservation and community forestry efforts.  The tour will visit the City of Arcata Community Forest — the oldest community forest in California — where there is active forest management and community members use an extensive trail system through managed stands on a daily basis. The tour will also visit the newly established McKay Community Forest near Eureka and several private properties that practice innovative land management. This tour will showcase uneven-aged redwood silviculture, funding for conservation activities and techniques to maintain social license within a community, and discuss the benefits and liabilities of managing bigger and older trees.
  • South Tour. The tour with Humboldt Redwood Company looks into conservation planning on industrial timberland. In the historic lumber town of Scotia, participants will tour a mill and visit Humboldt Redwood Company's 40,000 gallon freshwater aquarium. In the afternoon, the tour will hear about active forest management and habitat conservation strategies for the protection of endangered species such as the marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, and coho, chinook and steelhead salmon.

“This symposium will build on the scientific underpinnings from the first redwood symposium held in Arcata in 1996 and the subsequent 2004 symposium in Rohnert Park, and the 2011 symposium in Santa Cruz,” said Valachovic. “Bringing the symposium back to Humboldt is a great homecoming. Much has changed over the last 20 years.”

The 2016 Coast Redwood Science Symposium, sponsored by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, will be held at the Red Lion Inn in Eureka. For more information or to register, visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/Redwood2016.

Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2016 at 1:50 PM

How wildflower plantings on farms benefit bees and crop pollination

Bumblebee.
Bloom where you're planted.

That old adage takes on more meaning when you plant wildflower strips on your farm. Wildflowers add resilience to our farming systems by providing bees with habitat and food - pollen and nectar. And they're not just for honey bees. Many native bees, such as bumble bees and blue orchard bees, are important crop pollinators. Currently about a third of our crops benefit from bee pollination. This includes vegetables, fruit and nuts, as well as crops grown for seed production, including sunflower, melon, and carrot.  

Farmers primarily rely on honey bees for crop pollination; generally two colonies per acre are needed. Honey bees are efficient pollinators, but with colony collapse and increasing colony losses, we must diversify our farming systems so we don't rely solely on honey bees.

Some important native bee crop pollinators include bumble bees, sunflower bees, squash bees, mason bees (blue orchard bees, which pollinate almonds, are mason bees) and leafcutter bees.

The benefits of native bees? Generally they forage on flowers earlier in the day than honey bees do, they tolerate more wind and cooler temperatures and often they're more efficient at gathering and moving pollen from one flower to another. Native bees also prompt honey bees to disperse more, resulting in more pollinator efficiency. All this is important for good pollination and crop production, especially for crops like almonds that bloom in late winter when the weather is more unpredictable. 

Many native bees, including squash bees, nest in the soil, generally excavating chambers about 12 inches deep, where they pack cells with pollen for their young. Bumble bees often occupy vacated rodent holes. Leafcutter bees nest in woody cavities, often taking advantage of old beetle galleries. Discing and land clearing removes their nesting sites and potential food sources, but if you add wildflower plantings and hedgerows of flowering shrubs on your farm, that brings them back. Farms with strips of flowers along field edges have higher numbers of native bees than those that do not. Honey bees also benefit from better nutrition from flowers, strengthening their resiliency to pests, diseases, and pesticides.

A recent study, Pest Control and Pollination Cost–Benefit Analysis of Hedgerow Restoration in a Simplified Agricultural Landscape, published by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and UC Berkeley, describes the economic value of these plantings. Generally, a $4,000 investment to plant a 1,000-foot hedgerow of native California plants, takes about seven years to pay off from enhanced pest control and pollination services from natural enemies and bees (where honey bees are limiting). If cost-share funding is available from the USDA, this will reduce the investment cost for the restoration and time on returns.

Although habitat plantings are definitely beneficial, some farmers have expressed concern that these plantings will bring in more pests, including rodents, birds and weeds. However, current UC ANR studies show strips of flowers on field edges export beneficial insects into adjacent crops for enhanced pest control. The wildflower strips are too small to support large numbers of rodents or flocking birds that can damage crops (with the possible exception of ground squirrels and cottontail rabbits), and weeds requiring management are present regardless of field edge habitat.

Gumplant next to almonds, Yolo County, August 2016.

Water? Although it's hot and dry out right now, many wildflowers do not need summer water. This includes Bolander's sunflower (great for songbirds like goldfinches, but the seeds should not be included in row crop mixes as they will cross-pollinate with our hybrid sunflower seeds), milkweed (great for monarch butterflies), vinegarweed, tarweed, gumplant, turkey mullein (doves love these seeds), and summer lupine. Bees, including natives and honey bees, thrive on these hardy flowers, especially now that the growing season is ending, and few crops are blooming.

Look for more information on wildflower and hedgerow plantings on the Hedgerow Hub website, , the Xerces Society website, and UC Davis fact sheet Habitat for bees and beneficials

Networking is important too. A recent UC ANR survey showed that networking among growers, landowners, and conservation agencies is crucial in the adoption and implementation of new ideas, such as wildflower plantings.

Bottom line: Wildflower strips can ensure a healthy, sustainable food supply for crops that rely on bee pollination.  “Bloom where you're planted” equals “Reap what you sow.”

 

Wildflowers next to tomatoes, Solano County, May 2015.

 

Posted on Friday, September 2, 2016 at 8:44 AM
Tags: bees (5), crops (1), pollination (8), wildflowers (2)

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