Picture this during National Pollinator Week: five monarch caterpillars and assorted honey bees sharing tropical milkweed.
It was love at first bite. Or love at first sip.
The 'cats kept munching and the bees kept foraging. Neither species seemed interested in the other.
But the adult monarchs definitely showed more interest in the tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), a non-native, than the other two species, both natives, that we planted: the narrow leaf (A. fascicularis) and showy milkweed (A. speciosa).
They laid eggs only on the tropical milkweed, and so far, have produced five caterpillars.
The score to date:
Tropical milkweed: 5 caterpillars
Narrow leaf milkweed: 0
Showy milkweed: 0
Reminder: Folks planting the tropical milkweed in temperate zones (like here in Vacaville,Calif.) must remove or cut back the tropical milkweed by winter. "A protozoan parasite of monarch butterflies, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or OE for short, can travel with monarchs visiting the plants and become deposited on leaves," explains the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Yes, indeed. But meanwhile, we're witnessing untold sharing on the wildly popular tropical milkweed by not only monarch caterpillars but honey bees, syrphid flies, bumble bees, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees and sweat bees.
We gardeners and photographers are also drawn to the spectacular red, orange and yellow flowers that add both beauty and color to a cherished pollinator patch in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic...and National Pollinator Week.
She didn't know it was National Pollinator Week.
If she had, she would have paid it no mind.
She just knew that this was some fine pollen as she struggled to fit inside the strawberry blossom.
The honey bee, Apis mellifera, is like that: determined, decisive, and mission-bound.
And they do love strawberries.
How much? In investigating the foraging behavior of bees in agricultural landscapes, a research team from the Universities of Göttingen, Sussex and Würzburg found that dance of the honey bee (waggle dance) indicated a fondness for strawberry fields over oilseed rape fields. They published their study in January 2020 in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. (See EurekAlert).
As we all know, honey bees dance to communicate the direction, distance and quality of the food source they have visited. These scientists video-recorded the dances and decoded them.
Berry, berry fine!
California growers--and we the consumers--reap the benefits of this bee love. Our state grows about 88 percent of the U.S.-grown strawberries on approximately 34,000 acres, according to the California Strawberry Commission. "Statewide fresh strawberry production averages 50,000 pounds per acre each season." The approximately 300 strawberry growers hail from five distinct areas: Watsonville/Salinas, Santa Maria, Oxnard, Orange County/San Diego, and the Central Valley.
The honey bee we saw foraging on a single strawberry blossom in our yard did so for about five minutes. She seemed to know that this was some fine pollen.
Some fine pollen, indeed.
She paused midway to clean the pollen from her proboscis (tongue).
Together they won a total of seven communication awards in a competition hosted by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Life and Human Sciences (ACE).
Steve Elliott, communications coordinator for the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, Davis, won one silver (second-place) and two bronze (third-place) for his writing and photography;
- Writing for the Web, silver award for “IPM in Yellowstone”
- Photo Essay, bronze award for “Growing in Guam”
- Social media, bronze award for single blog post, “To Communicate Better, Start with Audience”
Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won two silvers for her writing and photography;
- Writing for Newspapers, silver award for “Paying It Forward,” about the successful career of award-winning academic advisor Elvira Galvan Hack
- Picture Story, silver award for “Kira Meets a Stick Insect” (at Bohart Museum of Entomology)
Diane Nelson, communication specialist for the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, won a bronze for her writing:
- Writing for the Web, bronze award for "Can Science Save Citrus?"
Ricardo Vela, Miguel Sanchez and Norma de la Vega of UC ANR's News and Information Outreach in Spanish won a bronze award for a video:
- Diversity 6, Electronic Media and Audio for Targeted Audiences, bronze award for Breakfast - Desayuno de Campeones - English and Spanish videos
The awards will be presented Wednesday, June 24 during ACE's virtual conference, which opened June 22 and continues through June 25.
ACE is an international association of communicators, educators and information technologists who focus on communicating research-based information. The organization offers professional development and networking for individuals who extend knowledge about agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences.
Got squash blossoms? You've probably got squash bees.
Unlike honey bees, which are generalists, squash bees are specialists. They pollinate only members of the cucurbits or squash family, Cucurbitaceae, which includes pumpkins, squash, gourds, cucumbers and zucchini.
This is National Pollinator Week (June 22-28) and we're paying tribute to all the pollinators, which include the alliterative bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.
Ah, squash. We planted crooked neck squash in our pollinator garden for two reasons, not necessarily in this order: (1) to harvest a few squash and (2) to admire and photograph the squash bees.
Our temporary residents are Peponapis pruinosa, a species of solitary bee in the tribe Eucerini, the long-horned bees.
The late Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, told us some factoids:
- Both the males and females are golden brown with a fuzzy yellow thorax. The males have a yellow spot on their face.
- Males sleep in the blossoms at night. There they wait for the females to arrive.
- Squash bees are early risers (they rise before the sun does). They begin pollinating the blossoms as soon as they open in the morning. Other bee species, such as honey bees, don't visit the flowers so early. The squash blossoms close after several hours so there's a limited amount of pollination time.
If you're aiming to photograph them, "bee" an early riser.
You may have lost track of the hours, days, weeks and months due to the coronavirus pandemic, but how can you forget National Pollinator Week?
Especially if you've ventured out in your yard, garden or park and witnessed the pollinators doing what they do best.
National Pollinator Week, set June 22-28, is a "time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them," according to the sponsor, Pollinator Partnership.
As they write on their website: "Thirteen years ago the U.S. Senate's unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as 'National Pollinator Week' marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles."
So, what can you do to observe Pollinator Week? The Pollinator Partnership says this year won't be a "typical Pollinator Week."
"We urge everyone to hold a socially distant, appropriate event. In an effort to lighten the load on state governments during this time, we are not pursuing formal state proclamations this year, but will continue to post proclamations that we do receive. Moreover, we encourage everyone to go outside and spend some time with the bees and butterflies that inspire hope in many."
And, when we think of Pollinator Week, we think of the honey bee totally dusted with pollen on a blanket flower, Gaillardia, in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
The bee just couldn't get enough of the pollen.
We just couldn't get enough photos. Bravo, Ms. Honey Bee!