Sometimes they barely notice you.
Such was the case of a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, spotted on our Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a bee worth?
If you want to learn more about bumble bees, be sure to check out the landmark book, Bumble Bees of North America, an Identification Guide, co-authored by our own Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. It's the first comprehensive guide to North American bumble bees to be published in more than a century.
Thorp is one of the veteran instructors at The Bee Course, held annually at the Southwestern Research Station in Portal, Ariz. This year's course is Aug. 20-30. (The deadline to apply was March 1.) It's a nine-day intensive workshop offered for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists, and other biologists "who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees."
A spectacular pollinator garden that's a "must-see" is Kate Frey's pollinator garden at Sonoma Cornerstone.
Kate Frey, a world-class pollinator garden designer, pollinator advocate and author who addressed the UC Davis Bee Symposium in March on "Designing Bee Friendly Gardens," has created a masterpiece. And yes, the pollinator garden is open to the public--no admission fee.
We visited the garden last Saturday and saw a pipevine swallowtail nectaring on Nepeta tuberosa, yellow-faced bumble bees sipping nectar from Stachys bullata, hummingbirds scoring nectar from salvia, and honey bees foraging on everything from Scabiosa "Fama Blue" to a native milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.
This is a happy place.
As she told the crowd at the Bee Symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology: Whether you plant them, nurture them, or walk through them, bee gardens make us happy.
Frey's sign at the Sonoma pollinator garden explains that "All the plants offer food resources of pollen and nectar for pollinators such as native bees, honey bees, hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Pollen is a protein, mineral and fat source and is primarily a larval food for bees, while nectar is composed of various sugars and is the main food for pollinators and the adult life stage of many beneficial insects. Pollinators need a continuous food source for many months of the year. This garden contains a range of plants that will bloom in succession from early spring to late fall."
Frey's sign also noted that "Pollinators all have preferred plants they feed from, and flowers cater to specific pollinators. Some flower shapes are designed to exclude unwanted pollinators. The long, constricted floral tubes of honeysuckles or many salvia exhibit their focus on hummingbirds as primary pollinators. Other flowers nectar, like coffee berry is easily accessible to all pollinators. This garden contains a wide range of plants to appear to a variety of pollinators. Over 80 percent of flowering plants require insect or animal pollination. What insects or birds do you see visiting each flower type?"
Well, let's see: bees, butterflies, and birds...Apis mellifera, Battus philenor, Bombus vosnesenskii, Papilio rutulus, Calypte anna...
"The same plants that support pollinators," Frey indicated on the sign, "also make us happy."
They do! Happiness is a pollinator garden...
Not so with the Biological Orchard and Gardens (BOG) on the University of California, Davis, campus. It's a 24,000-square foot treasure, a living museum planted not only with several dozen species of heritage fruit trees, but landscaped with colorful mini-gardens.
This spring scores of wildflowers bloomed in awe-stopping glory, prompting passersby to pull out their cell phones and take selfies.
“The project began in 2010 when a group of students raised the money to convert an under-utilized lawn into a working orchard with fruits free for everyone to enjoy,” related former student project manager and now BOG volunteer Emily Dorrance. She recently graduated with a bachelor of science degree in environmental policy analysis and planning.
“Since then, the team has grown to involve many other UC Davis faculty, staff, and student groups," Dorrance said. ”Ernesto Sandoval, manager and curator of the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory, has been an advisor to the BOG student leadership for many years now and continues to be an important partner!”
At its core, BOG is a collaboration of students, staff and academic programs and an outdoor ecological laboratory that directly supports the university's popular Introduction to Biology course. Or, as the BOG Facebook page indicates: "An agro-biodiverse collaboration between students, staff, academic specialists and programs at UC Davis!"
BOG is located in front (or back) of the Mann Laboratory on Kleiber Hall Drive, depending on which way you're going! If you park in Lot 26, off Kleiber Hall Drive, it's a short walk down the sidewalk to BOG.
"The orchard you see today was planted two years ago," Dorrance noted. "The wildflowers were seeded four years ago and continue to self-seed, with some supplementation.We're planning on planting some more permanent plantings in the fall. The Mediterranean plots surrounding the orchard will have some more seasonal variety as well! I don't think we have any major planting plans for this summer but that could change!"
Among the flowers blooming in the Bog in the early spring, by color:
- Red: European red flax, Linum grandiflorum rubrum, an annual that's native to Algeria
- Yellow: tidy tips, Layia platyglossa, an annual that's native to California
--The seep monkey flower, Mimulus guttatus, native to California
--Lupine, Lupinus, native to North America.
- Blue: Desert bell, Phacelia campanularia, an annual herb that is native to California and endemic (limited) to California.
- Lavender: Phacelia, also called Lacy phacelia, blue tansy or purple tansy (Phacelia tanacetifolia), native to the southwestern United States
--Lupine: Lupinus, native to North America
- Red-Orange-Yellow: Blanket flower or Gaillardia (Gaillardia × grandiflora), native to North and South America
- Orange: California golden poppies, Eschscholtzia californica
The orchard contains heritage fruit tree varieties threatened with commercial extinction. They include the Gravenstein and Johnathan apples; the Suncrest peach; the Bleinheim apricot, the Mariposa plum and the Meyer lemon. See the full list of trees as well as some fun facts here: https://thebogatucd.wixsite.com/bogucd/single-post/2017/07/18/BOG-Fruit-Trees.
In 2013 BOG received a "Go Green" grant from the UC Davis Dining Services. Then last month, the Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) awarded $19,934 to the BOG for final site development. It was a major effort. (On its Facebook page, BOG thanks Kelly Richmond and Andra George for help on the grant and supporters Geoffrey Benn, Ivana Li, Pat Randolph, Lee Anne Richmond, and Peter Hartsough.)
Future plans? According to the website: "The BOG is joining the campuswide effort in transitioning towards a landscaping genre that embraces lawn reduction and plantings more suitable for the teaching, outreach and research mission of the university and sustainability practices. The motivation for the BOG is to serve as a teaching garden for multiple university courses and provide a relaxing space to enjoy the outdoors and simply delicious fruit. The BOG's main function is to serve a demonstration of and test site for plants more suitable to the region's hot dry summers and cool wet winters, with a focus on drought tolerant plants less commonly available in the Sacramento Valley."
When we stopped by the BOG in mid-April, the Phacelia tanacetifolia proved to be a favorite: honey bees (Apis mellifera), male and female Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) and yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) were all over it. It's fairly uncommon to see male Valley carpenter bees--"teddy bear bees" or green-eyed blonds--foraging, but there they were, along with the female of the species. "The girls" are solid black in a clear-cut case of sexual diphormism.
Want to get involved? The BOG seeks volunteers, interns and donors. See its website at https://thebogatucd.wixsite.com/bogucd or its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ucdBOG or email "firstname.lastname@example.org."
You can even adopt a tree!
Or become buddies with a bee!
(Note: Most of the annual wildflowers have "passed" since our visit in mid-April, but the orchard is thriving with newly formed fruit.)/span>/span>
She's the recipient of a prestigious three-year fellowship, a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, for her research proposal, “Promoting Food Security by Optimizing Wildflower Plantings to Support Wild and Managed Bees.”
This highly competitive fellowship, funded by the Department of Defense, drew more than 3600 applicants. Maureen was one of 69 awardees.
“The fellowship is well deserved,” said Williams, her major professor and a pollination ecologist and a UC Davis Chancellor's Fellow. “Maureen is a talented researcher, who shows a real passion for her research that is combined with a highly analytical meticulous approach.”
Of her project, Williams said: “Her work melds careful field sampling with advanced analysis, including computational optimization modeling. It will move existing research to a new level by exploring the nutritional basis of competitive interactions among pollinators. The project builds from a solid foundation but his highly innovative. Its results should be of tremendous value to the scientific community, but are also highly relevant for decision making to promote sustainable food systems for California and beyond.”
Page received her bachelor's degree in biology, cum laude, from Scripps College, Claremont, Calif., in 2016, and then enrolled in the UC Davis entomology graduate program, with a career goal of becoming a professor and principal investigator.
“I became interested in UC Davis because I was interested in working in Neal's lab,” she related. “After my sophomore year of college, I participated in National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) with the Chicago Botanic Gardens. One of the professors I was working with, Jennifer Ison, told me that my research interests aligned well with the work coming out of Neal's lab and I quickly realized she was right.”
Her dissertation research focuses on using plant-pollinator interaction networks to (1) assess the impact of honey bee introductions on native plant pollination and (2) optimize wildflower plantings to simultaneously support honey bee health and diverse native bee communities.
“I've always loved flowers and I think my love of bees grew out of my academic interest in pollination ecology and a desire to apply my talents towards research that would benefit farmers and pollinator conservation efforts,” said Page, a native of San Francisco but who grew up in Ashland, Ore.
As a volunteer researcher for Southern Oregon University, she worked on a watershed project in the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and was named the City of Ashland's Conservationist of the Year in April 2012. The city honored her at its Earth Day celebration.
Keenly interested in bee research, Page received a 2013 Scripps Environmental Research Grant to establish a solitary bee monitoring program at the Bernard Field Station in Claremont. She created a reference collection and species list of bee diversity at the field station, gaining experience collecting, pinning and identifying bee specimens. She presented her findings at the Scripps Undergraduate Research Symposium. Page later worked on a project categorizing pollen deposition by the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenkii to California figwort, Scrophularia california.
An average day?
“My field season has started, so on an ‘average day' I'm at one of my lab's wildflower plantings by 7 a.m. and driving home with coolers of bees and flowers around 7 p.m.,” Page said. “The most fun part of my fieldwork is using something called a ‘mobile bouquet' to measure single-visit pollen deposition by different pollinator taxa to different plant taxa.”
Page was awarded a grant from the Davis Botanical Society earlier this year, and won second place in the graduate students' poster competition at the 2018 UC Davis Bee Symposium for her poster, “Impacts of Honey Abundance on the Pollination of Eschscholzia californica. Last year she received a Northern California Botanists' Grant and a Davis Botanical Society Grant.
Eager to reach youth about the importance of pollinators, Page began volunteering in 2016 for the Center for Land-Based Learning, mentoring students from Sacramento High School, and engaging them in hands-on conservation science at Say Hay Farms, a 20-acre family farm in Yolo County. She has taught students at her Davis area field site about the benefits of providing wildflower habitat for pollinators.
The UC Davis doctoral student has also presented lectures at the Hoes' Down Harvest Festival, Yolo County, on “Pollinators on the Farm” and led a kids' bug hunt. She presented an invited lecture on “Beneficial Insects in Home Gardens” to the El Dorado Master Gardeners, part of the UC Cooperative Extension program, and volunteered at their other activities.
Page serves as secretary of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association. In her leisure time, she enjoys “baking, rock climbing, learning new things, and sketching--mostly-flowers, bees, and sometimes butterflies.”
It's always held the Friday before Mother's Day to promote awareness of North America's public gardens. The non-profit American Public Gardens Association of Pennsylvania established the observance in 2009.
Want to celebrate it at the University of California, Davis?
The Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Davis campus, has scheduled an open house on Saturday, May 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Here's what's planned, according to bee garden manager Christine Casey:
- Bee observation and ID demonstrations for kids of all ages
- Bee and plant experts to answer your questions
- Learn what and how to plant to help bees
- Learn about home food gardens and bees
- Free sunflower plants while they last
- Free parking at the garden
- Difficult-to-find bee plants for sale. (See plant inventory.)
A little history:
The garden, installed in the fall of 2009, was founded and "came to life" during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project.
A Sausalito team--landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki--won the design competition.
The half-acre bee garden is anchored by Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long mosaic ceramic bee sculpture that is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. She and entomologist/artist Diane Ullman co-founded and co-directed the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.
The garden is named for the primary donor, the premium ice cream brand, Haagen-Dazs. Other major donors include the California State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (under the leadership of then State Regent Debra Jamison of Fresno). Names of many of the donors--those who gave $1000 or more--are inscribed beneath the Miss Bee Haven sculpture.
Missy Borel Gable, now director of the statewide UC California Master Gardeners' Program, served as the founding manager of the garden. Under her leadership and the work of the 19 founding volunteers, the bee garden was listed as one of the Sacramento Bee's top 10 garden destinations. The 19 volunteers chalked up 5,229 hours of service between May 2010 and Feb. 15, 2013, when their assignment ended. At the $10 minimum wage, that would have amounted to $52,290.
Native bee specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, who has monitored the garden since its very beginnings, has identified more than 80 bee species there.
If you visit the garden on Saturday, odds are you'll see many different species, including honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, and sweat bees, as well as butterflies and dragonflies.