Just bee-cause

Jun 19, 2013

It's National Pollinator Week. Have you hugged your pollinators today, particularly the bees?

If you don't pay attention to the bees around you, you may think that every floral visitor is a honey bee (Apis mellifera) or a bumble bee (Bombus).


If you look closely, you'll see bee diversity: leafcutter bees, green metallic sweat bees, cuckoo bees, long-horned bees, carpenter bees, and squash bees, just to name a few.

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, has detected 80 different species of bees - and counting - in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road at UC Davis. The half-acre garden, planted in the fall of 2009, is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It's intended to be a year-around food source for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators, to raise public awareness about the plight of bees, and to demonstrate what you can plant in your own garden.

"Of about 4,000 bee species known in the entire United States, about 1,600 have been recorded in California," according to Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley, Robbin Thorp and their colleagues, in a must-read article in California Agriculture.

They point out: "...many types of urban residential gardens provide floral and nesting resources for the reproduction and survival of bees, especially a diversity of native bees. Habitat gardening for bees, using targeted ornamental plants, can predictably increase bee diversity and abundance, and provide clear pollination benefits."

Be sure to check out UC Berkeley's Urban Bee Gardens website that's described as "a practical guide to introducing the world’s most prolific pollinators into your garden." It's an educational treasure.

Bottom line: It's good to bee-aware, especially when research studies show that our pollinator population is declining worldwide.

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By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist