- Author: Kirsten Pearsons
Everyone can appreciate the beauty of flowers, but that's not to say flowers look nice just for us! We often get asked by Haven visitors how bees find their flower hosts. One way is through unique flower colors and shapes. Once bees are near a plant, flowers with intricate patterns can entice them even further through patterns on the petals that direct bees straight towards nectar rewards. Like runway lights at the airport, these intricate nectar guides can help orient pollinators during their flower visits.
Nectar guides are doubly useful for bees, as they use guides at individual flowers to find nectar faster and as search images to target similar flowers. Since plants of the same species tend to be flowering at the same time, loyal bees can be more efficient than bees that hop from one species to another. It's a win-win situation since loyal bees can collect nectar with less effort and the flowers get a greater chance of receiving pollen from their own species (Functional Ecology 2011, 24, 1293-1301).
So what about simple monotone flowers? Well, the thing about nectar guides is that we humans can't always see what the bees do! We can see all of the colors from red to violet, but bees see a shifted spectrum from yellow through ultra-violet (UV). So to bees, even seemingly plain flowers may have bold nectar guide patterns. With UV sensors, even humans can get a glimpse of what nectar guides look like to bees. (Plant Species Biology 2013, 28, 177-184). The web site Flowers in Ultra-Violet has many images comparing flowers in daylight and UV light in which the guides are visible.
Other than bees, hummingbirds, hawkmoths, and syrphid flies have been found to respond to nectar guides. Some flowers even have overlapping visible nectar guides and UV nectar guides, possibly to attract birds and bees simultaneously. (Functional Ecology 2011, 24, 1293-1301).
As you walk through the Haven, look at our flowers for these intricate patterns. Here are two of the species in our garden with visible nectar guides:
- Author: Christine Casey
Chaparral currant 'Howard McMinn manzanita Wallflower
On President's Day we celebrate the achievements of our presidents, most notably George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. While their political and social accomplishments are well-known, many of our presidents have had connections to bees as well.
The Monticello web site tells us that Thomas Jefferson kept bees and owned the book Collateral bee-boxes: or, a new easy, and advantageous method of managing bees ; in which part of the honey is taken away, in an easy and pleasant maner, without destroying, or much disturbing the bees; early swarms, if desired, are encouraged, and late ones prevented (author Stephen White, 1759).
According to Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times by Rae Katherine Eighmey, our 16th president enjoyed cooking and his favorite food was apples. And we all know the folklore about George Washington and the cherry tree. Both these fruits rely on bees for pollination.
More recent are the current White House beehives.
While Washington, D.C. is currently snowed under, here in central California our weather is conducive to year-round honey bee activity. On any sunny day with temperatures over 55 degrees Haven visitors will see bees in the garden. Here are the red, white, and blue colors you'll see them foraging on this time of year:
Red (actually deep pink; bees do not see red):
Chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum)
King Edward VII flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward VII')
Compact Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium ‘Compacta'); winter foliage is red but currently blooming with yellow flowers
Manzanita ‘White Lanterns' (Arctostaphylos spp. ‘White Lanterns')
Manzanita ‘Howard McMinn' (Arctostaphylos spp. ‘Howard McMinn')
Manzanita ‘Sentinel' (Arctostaphylos spp. ‘Sentinel')
Manzanita ‘Sunset' (Arctostaphylos spp. ‘Sunset')
Buckbrush (Ceanothus cuneatus)
Blue (actually shades of purple):
Bush germander (Teucrium fruticans)
Rosemary ‘Mozart' (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Mozart'); this rosemary cultivar has outstanding deep purple flowers
Wallflower (Erysimum spp.)
Ceanothus ‘Valley Violet' (Ceanothus maritimus ‘Valley Violet')
Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman' (Ceanothus arboreus x Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus)
Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps'