The vibrant colors of Cosmos, an annual flower with the same common name as its genus, are spectacular. But we especially like the showstopping pink Cosmos with its bright yellow center.
Well, sometimes, they have a green center--that's when an ultra green sweat bee is foraging.
The female Agapostemon texanus is solid green, from head to thorax to abdomen, while the male of the species has a solid green head and thorax. It begs to differ with its abdomen; it's striped yellow and black, as if an artist ran out of green paint.
Agapostemon texanus is one of the bees featured in California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, the work of UC Berkeley-affiliated scientists Gordon W. Frankie, Robbin W. Thorp, Rollin E. Coville, and Barbara Ertter. Thorp, a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, so there's the Berkeley angle!
If you want to learn more about native bees, check out Native Bees Are a Rich Natural Resource in Urban California Gardens, published by Frankie, Thorp, Coville and Ertter (and others) in California Agriculture.
Another good source is the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, directed by Professor Frankie. It has an easy to remember URL: http://www.helpabee.org/.
Meanwhile, how green is your Cosmos?
Have you seen the male Valley carpenter bee, that green-eyed blond fondly nicknamed "the teddy bear bee?" (Well, it does have that fuzzy-wuzzy look, and it being a male, has no stinger.)
The Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, and other species that are featured in the newly published book, California Bees & Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday Books), will literally come to life if folks come together and fund a documentary.
Plans call for Team Candiru, a small, not-for-profit natural history production company based in Bristol, England, to film the 45-minute documentary. They will partner with the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, operated by Professor Gordon Frankie, lead author of the book.
Team Candiru specializes in "visually compelling, educational and scientifically accurate content," according to the good folks at the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab. They pointed out that the film will explore "the lives of the silent majority--the wild bees. They are diverse, numerous, fascinating, and beautiful. We will show in exquisite detail how they overcome life's challenges, finding mates and caring for their young before time runs out!"
California has some 1600 species of native bees. Like their cousins the honey bees, they also pollinate crops and flowering plants, but just aren't as well known.
The documentary is intended to extend information about the importance of native bees to thousands of schoolchildren, naturalists, gardeners, and researchers. The goal is to raise $99,000. The best part about Team Candiru is that their completed films are free for everyone's viewing pleasure and education. (See newlsetter on the UC Berkeley Urban lab website.)
Team Candiru is comprised of:
- James Dunbar is a camera operator who films insects, spiders and other small creatures. (See his portfolio on his website.) Dunbar holds a bachelor's degree, with honors, in zoology from the University of Glasgow, where he specialized in the behavior of insects. He received a master's degree in wildlife documentary production from the University of Salford, Manchester.
- Richard Mann, the second cameraman, specializes in time-lapse plant cinematography. He hails from Luxembourg and holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife and the media from the University of Cumbria and a master's degree in wildlife documentary production from the University of Salford.
- Hazel Waring is in charge of outreach, online media, and fundraising. She has a background in music and studied at the University of Sheffield, specializing in organizing scientific activities at local schools and museums. Her expertise includes the effects of climate change on plants.
- Dave Gillies is a composer, radio presenter and voice-over artist. He is responsible for the audio side of Team Candiru -- writing and performing the music, narrating, and adding the sound effects. He also presents a soundtrack radio show on futuremusic.fm.
Donors' names will be published on the Urban Lab website; on all promotional materials and venues; and will be listed in the film credits. Here's how you can help make the documentary a reality:
- Make a tax-deductible donation on the Heyday website (
Heyday Books is the fiscal sponsor). Everything counts, nothing is too small!
- Spread the word: send to all interested persons and share on Facebook and Twitter.
There's another way to get involved. The project organizers are seeking a name for the documentary. The subtitle will be California Bees and Blooms to tie in with the book. You can send catchy suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will announce the winner in their next newsletter.
As for California Bees and Blooms, it is the work of four scientists closely connected to UC Berkeley: UC Berkeley entomologist Gordon Frankie; native pollination specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who holds a doctorate from UC Berkeley; photographer Rollin Coville of the Bay Area, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, and Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley, curator of Western North American Botany and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley.
How to celebrate Valentine's Day?
Well, without pollinators, we wouldn't be celebrating Valentine's Day as we know it.
That box of chocolates? Give thanks to the midges that pollinated the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao.
That bouquet of mixed flowers? Honey bees probably visited them before they were gifted to you. Among honey bee favorites are lavenders, mints, sunflowers, asters, basil, rosemary and the like.
That candle on your dining room table or fireplace? It may be made of beeswax, provided by the bees.
But to paraphase John F. Kennedy, it shouldn't be about what bees can do for us; it should be what we can do for the bees. Two of the nicest things we can do are to (1) plant a bee friendly garden, offering a diversity of their favorite seasonal plants, (2) avoid pesticides and (3) learn about the bees around us and their needs.
You can learn how to attract pollinators at a workshop set March 28 on the UC Davis campus. That's when the California Center for Urban Horticulture is sponsoring "Your Sustainable Backyard: Creating a Living Landscape." Registration is underway.
Another perfect gift for Valentine's Day is the newly published California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardener and Naturalists (Heyday), the work of Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville and Gretchen Ertier, all with UC Berkeley connections, and one with a UC Berkeley/UC Davis connection. That would be native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley.
As the authors point out, California is home to some 1600 species of bees. In their must-have book, they describe bee behavior, social structure, flight season, preferred flowers, and natural enemies. They offer "recipes" for bee gardens and list how you can become involved with projects that protect bees and promote public awareness.
Can't you just hear the bees communicating "Bee Mine?"
Where, oh where, is that first bumble bee of the year?
It's about this time of the year when the queen black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, and the queen yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, emerge.
One of our area readers asked if there's a chart or calendar indicating what time of year the various native bees emerge. One of the best sources is native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. (By the way, he's giving a public presentation on native bees at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24 at Solano County's Rush Ranch Nature Center, Suisun City. All interested persons are invited; there's no admission.)
"Each species of bee has its own particular season," Thorp says. "Some start in late winter to early spring, others start late spring, early summer. Some don't fly until fall. Some bees, especially our social bees (honey bees, bumble bees and some sweat bees) fly most of the flowering year (January-February into October-November)."
"It's probably best to frame the bee calendar in context of the bloom of various plants," Thorp points out. "Manzanita is one of the first flowering shrubs and when they come in to bloom that is the time to look for queens of our two early bumble bee species, Bombus melanopygus and B. vosnesenskii. Some of our large digger bees like Habropoda and some Anthophora come on during that bloom. In the vernal pools, early flowering starts in late February and some of our solitary ground nesting mining bees, Andrena start about then. When the red bud comes into bloom about mid-March the Blue Orchard Bee (BOB), some other species of bumble bees, and some sweat bees come out. Leafcutting bees (Megachile) and some long-horned digger bees (Melissodes and Svastra) start their activity about mid-May. "
A great book to learn about native bees and the flowers they visit is the newly published California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). It's co-authored by Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville and Barbara Ertter, all with UC Berkeley connections.
For example, if you look up manzanita (genus Arctostaphylos and family Ericaceae), in California Bees and Blooms, you'll see that there are more than 90 species and subspecies in California, and you'll learn which bees visit them. The authors provide a description of the plant, its origin and natural habitat, its range and use in urban California, its flowering season (late winter to early spring), the resources it provides for bees (pollen and nectar), bee ecology and behavior, and gardening tips.
The book is a treasure.
As are the bees!
Give me an "A" (for excellence).
Give me a "B" (for bee).
Give me a "C" (for Cosmos).
Watching honey bees collect nectar and pollen on the showy Cosmos (Cosmos bipannatus) is not to be missed.
As if performing a ballet, the enchanting bees enter stage left and are such show-stoppers that you want to erupt with applause at every precise move. Bravo!
Cosmos is a spectacular annual with saucer-shaped floral heads, ranging in color from white and pink to lavender and crimson. It's a relatively late bloomer. In our family bee garden, they began blooming in late summer and are continuing into fall.
In their newly published book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, entomologists Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley and Robbin Thorp of UC Davis teamed with photographer Rollin Coville (UC Berkeley-trained entomologist) and botanist Barbara Ertter (UC Berkeley) to offer interesting information on bee species and advice for growing and managing bee friendly plants. It's a "must-have" for every gardener and naturalist or would-be gardeners and naturalists. Did you know there are more than 1600 different species of bees in California alone, and some 4000 throughout the country?
One section goes into depth about plants, including Cosmos. You'll learn its description, origin and natural habitat, range and use in urban California, flowering season, resource for bees (nectar and pollen), most frequent bee visitors, and bee ecology and behavior. It's not surprising that the book, by Heyday, is published in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society.
And what are the most frequent bee visitors? "A wide variety of bee species, especially Melissodes robustior, Melissodes species, and Halictus ligatus. In the Central Valley, it attracts honey bees, Agapostemon texanus, Anthophora urbana, Xeromelecta californica, and Svastra obiqua expurgata."
The authors describe all those species--and more. Some we know generally as longhorned bees, sweat bees, metallic green sweat bees, digger bees, and sunflower bees.
Blooms. Bees. Beautiful.