Author: Linda Bray, UC Master Gardener, Contra Costa County
Editor's Note: UC Master Gardener Program receives a lot of questions about gardening and bees and how to attract and protect them in our gardens. Below is a recent report on the status of native bees in Contra Costa County. While the report deals primarily with agriculture in East Contra Costa County, the principles will also apply to your garden (e.g., click).
I attended the meeting of the Contra Costa County Fish and Wildlife Committee yesterday (July 20, 2016) and was especially interested to learn about the progress of UC Berkeley's native bee research and how it has affected agriculture in our area.
First on the agenda was Dr. Gordon Franke of UC Berkeley who presented the progress made on the project, Bees In Brentwood. Dr. Franke and his research group have been studying native bees since 1987 and the research has now extended to farms in both Contra Costa County and Ventura County. Dr. Franke began his presentation by stating that there are 4.000 species of native bees throughout North America but California is home to 1600 species which makes it the perfect habitat to study these busy pollinators.
Farmer Al Corchesne of Frog Hollow Farms in Brentwood was open to having Dr. Franke's research teams set up a demonstration garden on a small plot among his hundred acres. The diverse plants used in the garden were native bee-drawing ornamentals. Since then, seven other farmers have agreed to be part of the research. Ultimately, the native bees do not require a monetary investment if they are found on the farms and in time, may be the only agents of pollination if colony collapse continues. There are eight demonstration garden plots; four are treatment and four are control. Some farms are organic and some are conventional. The monitoring of native bee populations has been ongoing since 2010. To date, the conventional farms near Marsh Creek have the highest numbers of native bees. UC Berkeley teams conduct twice-weekly visits during the growing season and monitor the numbers and species. Data is continually analyzed for key outcomes.
Dr. Franke encouraged committee members to visit helpabee.org to read the latest outcomes of the native bee research. His book, CALIFORNIA BEES AND BLOOMS, published in 2012, is a guidebook to California's 1600 species of wild bees and gives information about what to plant to attract them to our gardens. Education is the key to making the public aware of identification of native bees and their susceptibility to pesticides. There is continuing proof that neonicotinoids can adversely affect not only native bees but many species of birds as well. As new chemicals are formulated for use in our gardens, research is key to short and long term effects on our environment. Certainly, the effects on our native bee species is critical to our long-term food supply.
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (LMB)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/).
- Author: Shannon Wolfe
First, I want to say that I have never had an infestation of carpenter bees. I just enjoy seeing them in my front yard. If my home or any of my fences were suffering from an infestation of carpenter bees, I might have to rescind this post. If you think you might have an infestation of carpenter bees, please check out this link.
I think most, if not all, home gardeners have heard about the plight of the honeybees in the past few years. But did you know that there are most than 25,000 species of bees around the world? The United States is home to about 4,000 species. Both honey bees and bumble bees (family Apidae) are what are called "social" bees - meaning that they create colonies (hives) and work as a team. I was surprised to learn during my training to become a Contra Costa County Master Gardener that most native bees are solitary bees - I did not know that any bees were solitary! Carpenter bees fall into this category - a solitary bee.
Just because carpenter bees are solitary and do not belong to a colony does not mean that they are not good pollinators. The carpenter bees that I see most often are buzzing around my front yard - specifically around the Hot Lips Sage that grows in the front corner of my front yard
Now, you might wonder, why are these bees called carpenter bees?They make their nests in old wood - in fence posts and eaves most commonly in developed areas. Digger bees are similar in appearance and size to carpenter bees, and they make their nests in bare soil.
I do not know why, but I have always enjoyed seeing one or two of these big, black beauties buzzing around my yard. In researching for this post I learned that male carpenter bees, which are the solid black ones I see most often, cannot sting. So yes, I enjoy them even more now! So keep you eyes open, and the next time you see one of these beauties thank them for the solitary hard work they do in pollinating our plants!