- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
With their complex social structure and “waggle dance” to inform hive members where food sources are located, honeybees are fascinating creatures.
But honeybees are not the only bees flitting about the flowers on our crops and in our gardens in search of nectar. There over 4,000 species of bees in California.
There are over 1,600 species of native bees in California. Unlike honeybees and Bumble bees, most are solitary in nature, and do not produce honey or wax for consumption by others. In North America, only the European honeybee and Bumble bees build hives and live in colonies.
There are 3 basic types of bee nesting:
- Ground nesting bees, which make up 70% of bees. Mining bees are an example of these.
- Stem and wood nesting bees, such as leaf cutter bees or mason bees, make up another 30% of bees.
- Colony nesting bees, such as honeybees and bumble bees make up less than 1% of all bees in North America.
Bees are in Trouble
Some ways you can help:
- Plant a garden full of flowering plants to attract bees and other important pollinators. Make sure you have something bloom during the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
- If you use a pesticide, choose one that is less toxic such as a horticultural soap or oil.
- Provide a space for nesting bees, with bee houses and bare patches of soil.
Upcoming Bee Talk
Date: Wednesday, September 14
Time: 3:15 – 4:15pm
Location: Modesto Junior College West Campus, 2201 Blue Gum Ave., Science Community Center in room 115
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a Master Gardener in Stanislaus County since 2020.
- Author: Harold McDonald
I recently unearthed a bouquet of blue statice that I had hung to dry in the pantry, and it now brightens my bathroom, along with some ‘Moonshine' yarrow and lavender harvested early last summer.
Though I do have some star performers in my desert garden, I'm afraid nothing will ever quite compare to the armloads of easily-grown flowers I could collect nearly any day in Santa Cruz. When I saw those statice, it occurred to me that I could extend my season of color by planting even more flowers for drying. I did a little research and came across this amazing site that inspired me to expand my palette of dried flowers.
Globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) is a super-tough little annual from South America that blooms in late summer. It is so tolerant of high temperatures that there used to be a notion that it was planted at the gates of Hades. Now that's hot! I grew it 20 years ago when I lived in west Bishop, and I remember it as a welcome—if not too exciting—addition to the flower bed. But seedsmen and plant breeders have been paying attention to this little guy, and you can now find it in oranges and reds, in addition to the white, pink and purple I remember. The colors that make globe amaranth so striking actually come from stiff, papery, leaf-like structures called bracts—the same part that makes poinsettias and bougainvilleas so attractive)—the true flowers are so tiny that they are nearly hidden within the flower head.
As I alluded to above, statice (Limonium sinuatum) has become a staple in my garden over the years. With statice, it's the flower sepals (collectively known as the calyx) that provides the color—the white flower petals fall away. Statice is super-easy to grow from seed, and they now come in so many more colors than the blue I have always grown.
And there are so many other possibilities to explore!
Many of us have grown the common annual bachelor's button (Centaurea cyanus). You may also know it as cornflower, so named because it was often found as a weed in fields of corn and other grains. Another familiar plant is the aptly-named strawflowers (Xerochrysum bracteatum). I'll bet you can guess what plant part provides this Australian import with its color! The big news with so many of these dried flowers is the new hues plant breeders have brought us.
Less familiar to me are the celosias (Celosia angentea cristata), which come not only in different colors, but in three different flower types: plumed, cockscomb and wheat! Sunballs (Crasspedia globosa), sea holly (Eryngium planum)and globe thistle (Echinops ritro) are three more to check out.
And you don't have to stop at flowers. Many grasses (bunny tails are nice) and members of the onion family are great in dried bouquets. In my own garden I discovered that the dried stalks of garlic chives are beautiful in the autumn garden, especially mixed with ornamental grasses and late bloomers like goldenrod. The problem, of course, is that by the time they are dry, they have spread their seeds far and wide!
As easy as most of these plants are to grow, drying the flowers is even simpler. Cut them when they first open, bundle them with string and hang upside down to dry. Florists sometimes use drying agents like silica gel, but my favorite method comes from a grower who tosses the flowers in the trunk of his car, parks it in the sun, and says they are perfect after 24 hours!
For more information on flowers to dry:
Select flower names in the articles to see photographs and more detailed descriptions.
- 30 of the best flowers for drying
- Grow everlastings for dried flowers
- Gomphrena—an antidote for the late summer blahs
*Brazilian verbena has become invasive in some warm-winter areas of the country, but our temperature extremes seem to prevent that here.
Native (Bee) Pollinators
Take a quiz on your knowledge of native bee pollinators, learn about the three types of pollinator nesting, and see examples of what types of plants pollinators prefer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOGDSNJJoh8&t=6s
Planting for Pollinators
Learn about the local native bee pollinators and hummingbirds you might see in your backyard, and what kind of plants they prefer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naL3BM5aP-s&t=5s
Butterflies in Your Garden
Find out how to have more butterflies in your garden, by learning which plants are required for butterflies to complete their lifecycle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHXSdtxicII&t=6s
Download the handouts from any of our classes by visiting our Classes and Workshops web page at https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Classes/
This post was originally published on June 24, 2021./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Dustin Blakey
I always like to grow some flowers in my garden. I usually grow cosmos, zinnias, or marigolds, all of which do great in the Owens Valley.
This year I had a great plan to try to have my garden mostly done by July. It didn't work out, but before I abandoned that goal, I planted bachelor's buttons. These annual plants flower quickly, and I had hoped they would be ready in time for graduation day in June. And they were. Sort of.
Bachelor's buttons—also called cornflowers—are in the same genus (Centuarea) as many thistles that do great in California. Some in fact are terrible weeds like yellow star-thistle: C. solstitialis.
I've never grown them here myself, but bachelor's buttons are about the world's easiest thing to grow. Just maybe not in the desert when it's blazing hot. (In my defense, I suspected they wouldn't like our summer. I was trying to finish up the garden before the heat was unbearable in my back yard.)
Some Centaureas do like our climate. Centuarea montana, a similar looking perennial plant, looks nice in the Owens Valley. Centuarea cyanus, at least when direct sown in the garden, was a disappointment for me.
In my past experience growing them, seed catalog images have been a fairly accurate representation of what to expect.
Here is what I ended up with:
As you can see in the picture, the flowers don't look so good. What's happening? Well, my garden is too hot. As soon as the blossoms open, they immediately desiccate. I suppose if I wanted to dry them that would be fine.
Bachelor's buttons like cool weather, and I planted these in early March. I had no issues with germination. They quickly popped up just like the weeds they're related to. Everything worked as planned, and my first blooms began Memorial Day weekend. (Hooray for planning ahead!) But then they just fried on the stems.
It could just be this particular mix. I'm sure it did fine in Oregon where the seeds came from. In my garden every day, even with ample water, these plants get a bit wilted in the afternoon. Other cultivars may do better, but I don't think I'll experiment again to find out which those may be. (If you have good luck with one, post in comments.)
From this experience, I'd recommend one of these strategies if you want to grow bachelor's buttons:
- Plant the perennial relative C. montana
- Start the seeds indoors in February and transplant to finish sooner
- Pick a cooler part of the yard and not in a hot corner like I have, or use a light shade cloth to lower the temperature
Higher elevation gardeners would probably be much happier with bachelor's buttons than I was. For my part, rather than moving up the grade and trying again, I think I'll stick with zinnias next year.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Vannette isolated one new species on California fuchsia, Epilobium canum, located in the 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, and another new species on California figwort or California bee plant, Scrophularia californica, in the 258-acre UC Davis Stebbens Cold Canyon Reserve, located near Winters and encompassing parts of Solano and Napa counties. Both plants are natives and perennials.
The new species are named Acinetobacter pollinis (from Stebbins) and Acinetobacter rathckeae (from the Arboretum). Acinetobacter pollinis was named for its affinity for pollen, "as it does not grow well in the absence of pollen," Vannette said. Acinetobacter rathckeae memorializes University of Michigan emerita and lauded female pollination biologist Beverly Rathcke (1945-2011).
“There's more to come on these bacteria and what they do in flowers but from what we know now they seem to germinate and 'eat' pollen,” Vannette said. “In any case, we love and appreciate our reserves and natural areas on campus: they are an awesome source of unexplored biodiversity and really interesting biology.”
The third species the scientists described is Acinetobacter baretiae, named for female botanist Jeanne Baret (1740-1807). "So two of the three newly described species are named for noted female botanists, one a great pollination biologist and ecologist--Beverly Rathcke--and the other, historical botanist Jeanne Baret."
Rathcke, who received her doctorate from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1973, served on the faculty of the University of Michigan's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from 1978 to 2010. She focused her research on community ecology, specifically, plant–animal interactions such as herbivory, competition, and pollination ecology. "She published some of the first papers using null models in community ecology," according to an obituary published by the Ecological Society of America. "She researched how environmental changes, such as introduced species, habitat fragmentation, and hurricane disturbances, affect species' reproductive success."
Baret, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, disguised herself as man and as an aide to botanist Philibert Commerson, to board the French ship, Etoile, on a 1766-69 expedition. "Baret captured the attention of Commerson because she possessed botanic knowledge that lay well beyond the competence of his professors and mentors," according to Glynis Ridley, author of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe. "She was an herb woman: one schooled in the largely oral tradition of the curative properties of plants."
Microbiology Society Journal
The newly published research paper on the news species of Acinetobacter appears in the Microbiology Society's journal, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. See https://doi.org/10.1099/ijsem.0.004783.
Other co-authors are Tory Hendry, Lydia Baker, and Vivianna Sanchez of Cornell University; Sergio Alvarez-Perez, affiliated with KU Leuven University, Belgium and Complutense University, Spain; Megan Morris of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore; Kaoru Tsui of Kyoto University, Japan; Bart Lievens of KU Leuven and Tadashi Fukami of Stanford University.
The abstract: “A detailed evaluation of eight bacterial isolates from floral nectar and animal visitors to flowers shows evidence that they represent three novel species in the genus Acinetobacter . Phylogenomic analysis shows the closest relatives of these new isolates are Acinetobacter apis , Acinetobacter boissieri and Acinetobacter nectaris, previously described species associated with floral nectar and bees, but high genome-wide sequence divergence defines these isolates as novel species. Pairwise comparisons of the average nucleotide identity of the new isolates compared to known species is extremely low (Acinetobacter species, for which the names Acinetobacter pollinis sp. nov., Acinetobacter baretiae sp. nov. and Acinetobacter rathckeae sp. nov. are proposed. The respective type strains are SCC477T (=TSD-214T=LMG 31655T), B10AT (=TSD-213T=LMG 31702T) and EC24T (=TSD-215T=LMG 31703T=DSM 111781T).”
Rachel Vannette Lab
The Vannette lab is a team of entomologists, microbiologists, chemical ecologists, and community ecologists trying to understand how microbial communities affect plants and insects.
All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants, Vannette explains. She and her lab investigate the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects.
“Much of the work in my lab focuses on how microorganisms affect plant defense against herbivores and plant attraction to pollinators,” Vannette related. “For example, we are interested in understanding the microbial drivers of soil health, which can influence plant attractiveness to herbivores and the plant's ability to tolerate or defend against damage by herbivores. In addition, we are working to examine how microorganisms modify flower attractiveness to pollinators. This may have relevance in agricultural systems to improve plant and pollinator health.”
Vannette, who holds a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology (2011) from the University of Michigan, was selected a UC Davis Hellman Fellow in 2018.
Her recent research grants include two from the National Science Federation (NSF). One is a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award, titled “Nectar Chemistry and Ecological and Evolutionary Tradeoffs in Plant Adaptation to Microbes and Pollinators.” The other is a three-year collaborative grant, “The Brood Cell Microbiome of Solitary Bees: Origin, Diversity, Function, and Vulnerability.”