They're there for the pollen.
"California poppies provide only pollen--no nectar," native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, told the Pollinator Gardening Workshop last Saturday on the UC Davis campus. Thorp was one of the featured speakers at the event, sponsored by the California Center for Urban Horticulture.
Thorp, who identifies thousands of bees a year for researchers, enthralled the audience with facts about bees. Although he retired in 1994, he maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, and is one of the instructors of The Bee Course.
Some of the information he presented:
- Unlike wasps, which are carnivorous, "bees are vegans." They gather pollen and nectar from plants. (They also collect water and propolis, or plant resin, for their colonies.)
- "Flowers don't have wings; so we need the pollinators to come to them."
- The global population of bees includes some 19,500 named species. Of that number, about 4000 different species of bees occur in North America; 1600 in California, and more than 300 species of bees in Yolo County. (Over the last four years, Thorp has found more than 80 species of bees in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road maintained by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.)
- Seventy percent of bees are solitary, and most nest in the soil.
- Fifteen percent of bees are cuckoo bees; the females lay their eggs in other bees' nest and their offspring eat the provisions
- Only 10 percent of bees are social (honey bees are among them)
Thorp recommends that if you want to attract native bees, provide food (bee plants), water and shelter. "Leave some bare soil, avoid mulch madness, and provide bee condos (drilled blocks of wood that blue orchard bees and leafcutting bees use for their nesting sites.)
"Plant it and they will come," Thorp said. "Provide habitat and they will stay and reproduce."
Thorp is the co-author of a newly published book, "Bumble Bees of North America" (Princeton University Press) and a co-author (with Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley and colleagues) of a pending book with the working title, "California Bees and Blooms."
One of the websites Thorp recommends is the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab website, http://www.helpabee.org/, which provides information on native bees, gardening for bees, and current projects and partnerships.
The purplish-blue spiked flowers attract honey bees, bumble bees and syrphid flies.
And visitors. And photographers.
The honey bees were buzzing all over the Echium last Sunday, Feb. 16, as were syrphid flies, aka hover flies or flower flies. But a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, preferred to hide beneath the leaf of a passionflower vine (Passiflora). Next time!
The towering Pride of Maderia, which can easily reach a height of six feet or more, is the pride of the Portuguese island of Madeira, where it's endemic. It's an evergreen bush planted as a drought-tolerant ornamental, particularly in coastal communities. It even gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Wikipedia informs us that the genus name is derived from the Greek "echion," and that the root word "echis" means "viper." Think snake. Apparently the shape of the seed resembles that of a viper's head. Another interpretation: there's an age-old belief that another Echium species, Echium vulgare, aka "Viper's Bugloss," is a remedy for the adder's bite.
However, Echium candicans is not so popular in the state of Victoria, Australia, where it is considered "a high weed risk" and its very presence prompts the Department of Primary Industries to send in the troops...er...alerts.
The first blooms of the year in Bodega, though, are cause for celebration.
And speaking of bees and blooms, you'll want to sign up for the "Pollinator Gardening Workshop, Your Sustainable Backyard,"set Saturday, March 15 at UC Davis. Hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCHU), it will take place at Giedt Hall, UC Davis campus, with a side trip to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden, just west of the campus, on Bee Biology Road.
Registration is underway at on the CCHU website.
CCHU program manager Anne Schellman says that this will be an informative workshop where participants will learn:
- How to identify common bee pollinators
- How to make a landscape pollinator-friendly
- Which plants pollinators prefer
- The latest research about honey bee health and pollinator habitat
- How UC Davis helps honey bees at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden
Honey bee and native pollinator specialists with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will be among the speakers. (See previous Bug Squad blog.)
Poet Gertrude Stein, who coined "A rose is a rose is a rose," probably would have liked it.
Julia Child, maybe not.
We purchased a "Sparkle and Shine" yellow rose, related to the Julia Child Rose, last May at the rose sale sponsored by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, University of California, Davis. It's drawing quite a bit of attention from insects in our yard.
And not just from honey bees, earwigs and spottted cucumber beetles.
We recently spotted this drone fly (Eristalis tenax) foraging among the blossoms. Startled by the camera movement, it kept flying off, only to return within seconds.
At first glance, non-entomologists would probably identify it as a honey bee. It's a floral visitor, right?
Right. But not all floral visitors are flies, and not all pollination involves bees.
Wikipedia says that in its natural habitat, the drone fly "is more of a curiosity than a problem, and the adults are benficial pollinators."
It's the larva, the red-tailed maggot, that makes some people shudder. The larvae, as Wikipedia says, live "in drainage ditches, pools around manure piles, sewage, and similar places containing water badly polluted with organic matter."
So from a pool around a manure pile to a beautiful Sparkle and Shine yellow rose. Who would have thought?
It's not "Rise and Shine!" any more.
It's "Sparkle and Shine."
"Sparkle and Shine," a yellow rose related to the Julia Child Rose, drew quite a bit of attention at the UC Davis event, "Roses: the "Eyeconic Weekend," sponsored May 4-5 by the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) at Foundation Plant Services, 455 Hopkins Road, west of the central campus.
Participants loved it--and so did the honey bees. The bees--probably from the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility--beelined to that floribunda, but they also foraged on many other roses.
CCUH executive director Dave Fujino described the event as quite successful. The good news is that some of the roses are still available for sale. An online rose catalog depicts such roses as Yabba Dabba Doo, Big Momma, Tiddly Winks, Wild Blue Yonder, McCartney Rose, Passionate Kisses, and Oh My!
You can email Fujino at firstname.lastname@example.org with your rose request (and ascertain the availability) and then purchase the roses at the Foundation Plant Services site, corner of Hopkins and Straloch roads, from 4 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8 and Friday, May 10, Fujino said. (From west Hutchison Drive, take Hopkins Road and then Straloch Road. See map.)
Then it's gearing up for next year's rose days. The event (free admission) is always held the first weekend of May, right before Mother's Day. Guests look forward to touring eight acres of roses, learning rose care at informational/training sessions, and gracing their gardens with their choices.
The bees foraging on the roses are "free" but they won't go home with you because they already have a home!
So began Joe South in his hit song, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," popularized by country singer Lynn Anderson in 1970.
That was Joe South's rose garden. What UC Davis has is an eight-acre field of roses, and you're invited to celebrate "Roses: the "Eyeconic Weekend" on Saturday and Sunday, May 4-5. It's a free event, with free training/informational sessions. The best part, however, is you can tour the rose field and select and buy a wide variety of container roses for your own garden.
The California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH), part of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, sponsors this annual fundraiser.
The rose sale takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5 at Foundation Plant Services, 455 Hopkins Road, west of the central campus.
Rose field tours will be given from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. on both days. Free mini floribunda roses will be handed out to the first 250 attendees, says CCUH executive director Dave Fujino.
Fujino invites the public to attend the free informational sessions, offered both days at the same site. No registration is required.
The agenda for Saturday, May 4 for the free informational sessions:
- 11 a.m. to noon: New rose varieties
- 1 to 2 p.m., Roses 101 (placement, planting and feeding)
- 2 to 4 p.m., Pruning
- 3 to 4 p.m.: Pest management
The agenda for Sunday, May 5 for the free informational sessions:
- 11 a.m. to noon: New rose varieties
- 1 to 2 p.m.: Roses 101 (placement, planting and feeding)
- 2 to 4 p.m.: Pruning
- 3 to 4 p.m.: Disease Identification (Bring your diseased specimens in a sealed baggie)
These "Rose Days" are what folks look forward to every year. Want to check out the beauty and fragrance? Want to learn how to prune roses? Want to ask a question about a pest or a beneficial insect? This is the place.
A rose catalog is online to aid you in your choices. There you'll see photos of such roses as Yabba Dabba Doo, Big Momma, Tiddly Winks, Wild Blue Yonder, McCartney Rose, Passionate Kisses, and Oh My!
Also available for sale ($10) will be the UC ANR book on "Healthy Roses."
No, this isn't Joe South's rose garden. This is the UC Davis eight-acre field of roses.