- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Those mighty monarchs haven't graced us with their presence this year (since late January) in our Vacaville, Calif. pollinator garden, but we're waiting for them. The habitat beckons and they will reign.
Meanwhile, it's the beginning of National Pollinator Week, June 21-27, and what better week to pay tribute to all the pollinators out there? Pollinators include not only the honey bees (the poster children), but let's focus on the declining monarchs, Danaus plexippus, and the ever-speedy longhorned bees, Melissodes agilis.
These two species absolutely love the Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola. The territorial male Melissodes target their fellow pollinators, buzzing them in kamikaze-like maneuvers as they try to dislodge them. Why? As the late Robbin Thorp (1933-2019) distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, used to say: "They're trying to save the flowers for their own species."
As the sun sets, you'll witness a "Boys' Night Out," as the male Melissodes sleep together, cuddled on the Tithonia blossoms while the females return to their nests.
Have you ever taken images of these male bees targeting monarchs? It's like trying to photograph a winged version of Usain Bolt. Faster than a speeding Bolt. More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall flowers in a single bound!
Here's to the first day of National Pollinator Week! And here's to all who help the pollinators by providing habitat for them. They thank you.