If you're looking for plants to attract pollinators, including bees and butterflies, then the UC Davis Arboretum's Plant Sale on Saturday, Oct. 22 is the place to "bee."
A public fall clearance sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, UC Davis campus. It will feature a "wide selection of Arboretum All-Stars, California natives, and gorgeous drought-tolerant plants," officials said. Members (new members can join at the door) save 10 percent and also reap other benefits.
The sale will include more than 16,500 plants and more than 450 varieties.
Will they have milkweed? Yes.
"It looks like we'll have plenty of milkweed, two varieties--Kotolo (Asclepias eriocarpa) and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)," said Katie Hetrick, director of communications.
Will they have butterfly bush (Buddleia)? Yes.
"We have a ton of Buddleia," said Hetrick, mentioning just a few: Magenta Munchkin, Dark Dynasty, Buzz, Orchid Annie, Purple Haze, Lavender Cupcake--and "The Chips": Lilac Chip, Pink Micro Chip, and Blue Chip Jr.
"And let's not forget all the Salvias!" Hetrick said. "Those are a nectar fave with pollinators including butterflies, bees and hummingbirds!" Among the Salvias on sale: Bee's Bliss, Pacific Blue, Marine Blue, Pozo Blue, Debbie's Rose, Little Kiss, Red Swing, Violet Riot, Royal Bumble, Hot Lips, and Scott's Red.
Taylor Lewis, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Nursery Manager, related that pipevine, the host plant of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor), will be available.
Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture, listed some of her favorite sunflower family plants that attendees can buy:
- Aster 'Monch'
- Coreopsis, 'Little Penny'
- Coreopsis, 'Enchanted Eve'
- Coreopsis, 'Red Elf'
- Echibeckia, 'Summerina Brown'
- And lots of Echinacea (cone flowers)
For a full list of the plants available, download the PDF.
And, it's interesting to see what folks in the area have planted instead of lawns. The Aboretum's web page offers great ideas.
Do you know how much acres in the United States are planted in lawn? Huffington Post reports in a 2015 news story: "According to a new study from NASA scientists in collaboration with researchers in the Mountain West, there is now an estimated total of 163,812 square kilometers, or more than 63,000 square miles, of lawn in America — about the size of Texas."
All that manicuring, all that water, all that work. And little or no food or shelter for the pollinators.
Every well-manicured lawn "uses up to 900 liters of water per person per day and reduces sequestration effectiveness by up to 35 percent by adding emissions from fertilization and the operation of mowing equipment," Huffington Post says.
Indeed, lawn is our nation's single largest "crop."
But it doesn't have to be. There IS life after lawn. And there is MORE life after lawn.
If you have a patch of salvia (sage) growing in your yard, watch for the nectar robbers.
Carpenter bees are among the insects that engage in nectar robbing. They drill a hole in the corolla of the flower, circumventing the usual plant-pollinator relationship. In other words, they're “cheating” pollination by "stealing" the nectar. Scientists call this "robbing the nectar."
The most prevalent nectar robbers in our yard are the mountain carpenter bees, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex. They're better at drilling holes than the Texas oilmen.
If you watch closely, you may see a honey bee following the carpenter bee around. She's taking the easy way out, finding the hole pierced by the carpenter bee and then gathering nectar to take back to her colony.
If a flower could communicate, it would probably say something like "Hey, you're doing an end run to get my nectar. Please don't use the side entrance--I have a front door."
Oh, the life of a praying mantis...
You can hang upside down like an acrobat, shading yourself from the sun while waiting for prey and avoiding predators. You can crawl beneath dense leaves, the better to ambush, snatch and eat an unsuspecting bee. And you can mate with a fine-looking specimen like yourself and produce some more fine-looking specimens.
Life doesn't get any better than this if you're a praying mantis. (Unless, of course, you're a male mantid and the female practices sexual cannibalism. Or, if you're a newly emerged offspring and your brothers and sisters are feasting on one another and then...eyeing you.)
Finding praying mantids is not so easy. Sometimes the slightest movement in the leaves will reveal their location. Sometimes when you water a plant, they'll emerge, looking quite irritated--if mantids can look irritated. Other times they're blatantly perched on top of a blossom or lurking beneath it.
Up until recently, we'd never actually seen them mating. But there they were that warm midsummer day on Sept. 17 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven doing just that. See, the praying mantids like to hang out in the bee garden because that's where the bees are. The half-acre garden is located next to bee research hives at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
Ah, we thought, a "lover-ly" photo to add to the educational collection of Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
So, we took a few photos, being careful not to interrupt them.
If this were a documentary being filmed about the birds 'n the bees, can't you just hear it? The Cole Porter hit, "Let's Do It," softly playing in the background:
...And that's why birds do it
Bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love.
All the while, the Cleveland or blue sage (Clevelandi salvia) stirs with life. A hummingbird, honey bees and carpenter bees drop down to investigate the blossoms and sip a little nectar. A garden spider patrols its sticky web. A scared lizard darts into the shadows.
Ants lumber by with their heavy loads. No sign of any "educated fleas," though.
Hmm, ever wonder why honey bees love salvia?
Are they going for that nectar or are they going for something else?
Salvia divinorum, which like all the salvias, is a member of the mint family, is gaining notoriety for its hallucinogenic effects. Videos on smoking salvia and the resulting psychedelic experiences materialize periodically on YouTube.
Now in research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, scientists think that an active ingredient in salvia--salvinorin A--may be a potential treatment for "an array of neurological disorders, including addiction," according to an article posted today on the Good Morning America ABC site.
The headline teased "Salvia Studies Hold Promise for Addiction." The subhead: "Hallucinogen Salvia is Safe, Could Open Door to New Class of Drugs for Pain Therapies."
The researchers, led by psychologist Matthew W. Johnson, speculate that salvinorin A "could open the door to a whole new class of drugs that have powerful analgesic properties."
Salvia is a member of the mint family.
Are bees are in "mint condition?"
Is "salvia" the new buzzword?
Look for more research on salvinorin A.
Maybe not so nice to have around your untreated patio or fences (as they drill holls in them to make their nests) but just think of them as pollinators, not pests.
As native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says: "Carpenter bees are beneficial in that they pollinate flowers in native plant communities and gardens. That far outweighs any damage to wood structures.”
We receive many calls and emails about carpenter bees. Many folks just want to know "what that loud buzz is" or "what's sharing our garden."The other day we received an email from a carpenter bee enthusiast in Patterson who wanted to know how to keep attracting them to her garden.
She inquired: "I had a couple of female bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) visit my garden this summer, but they seemed only interested in Salvia apiana and citrus flowers. Do you have any idea of other flowers that might interest them (I would like to keep them around longer)? Prefer California native plants."
Thorp responded: "Xylocopa varipuncta is a generalist flower visitor and has been recorded from a number of different kinds of flowers. Some natives you might consider include: Asclepias, Salvia, Trichostema, and Wislizenia for nectar; Eschscholzia and Lupinus for pollen.
Asclepias? The milkweeds. Salvia? Sages. Trichostema? The culinary herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, oregano, lavender, and thyme. Wislizenia? Think Wislizenia refracta, also called by its common name, jackass clover. Eschscholzia? California poppies. Lupinus? Lupines.
In our yard, carpenter bees are partial to a variety of native and non-native plants, including salvia, lavender, catmint, rock purslane, purple oregano and African blue basil. They also like the golden day lilies and poppies.