- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It's Day 7--the last day--of National Pollinator Week. Meet a longhorned bee, Svastra obliqua expurgata, family Apidae. It's also known as a sunflower bee.
"It's a bee that prefers sunflower but will collect pollen from a variety of members of the Aster family," the late Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology and a native pollinator specialist, told us several years ago.
He co-authored the book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (along with UC-affiliated colleagues Gordon Frankie, Rollin E. Coville and Barbara Ertter), a must for everyone who wants to learn about bees and blooms.
We remember seeing these native bees nesting underground by the U.S. Bank in Davis in 2015. See Bug Squad blog.
Katharina Ullmann circled the site with yellow caution tape and posted an educational sign. Ullmann, who received her doctorate in 2014 from UC Davis, worked as a national pollinator specialist for the Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation before accepting her current position as director of the UC Davis Student Farm in 2017.
"This is a sunflower bee nesting site," wrote Ullmann. "These gentle bees are native and ground nesting. The females of this species are solitary bees, but like to nest near each other and often use the same nest entrance. Their nesting tunnels lead to individual chambers below the ground. Each chamber is filled with pollen, a single egg, and then closed off. These eggs will hatch, develop underground, and emerge next summer to build their nests. This sunflower bee is one of 1600 species of native bees found in California."
The sign included a "name tag" with the common name, scientific name, favorite food (pollen and nectar), favorite place to be (3rd St., Davis), favorite colors (yellow, red and orange) and favorite saying (YOLO, You Only Live Once).
Ullmann added--and good advice then and now, especially during National Pollinator Week: "Three things you can do to help this bee: (1) protect nests, (2) plant flowers and (3) use fewer insecticides."
Or better yet, no pesticides.