It's not your average garden variety calendar.
It's absolutely bee-utiful.
Native bees reign supreme in “Garden Variety Native Bees of North America,” a calendar produced by University of California alumni as a benefit for two non-profit organizations.
The perpetual calendar, the work of native bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin and entomologist/photographer Rollin Coville, both of the Bay Area, features native bees found throughout North America, including the leafcutter bee, bumble bee and sweat bee.
The macro photography is simply stunning. Through these photos, you can get up close and personal with bees you may never have even noticed. The ultra green sweat bees are especially spectacular.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, provided “considerable insight into the biology and ecology of several native bee genera,” said Ets-Hokin.
Also contributing extensively were UC Berkeley faculty members Gordon Frankie and Claire Kremen. Frankie shared his extensive knowledge of native bees in urban gardens. Kremen provided crucial information on native bee crop pollination services, based on her studies in Yolo County.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Great Sunflower Project, a national pollinator monitoring and conservation program based in San Francisco, and the Portland, Ore-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which protects native bees and their habitat throughout the United States.
Each native bee comes complete with information, such as the genus, common name, pollen/nectar sources, emergence time, nesting habit, and distinguishing characteristics.
For instance, you'll learn that bumble bees are excellent crop pollinators; they pollinate such crops as tomatoes, cranberries and blueberries better than honey bees.
You can attract bumble bees to your own garden by planting such pollen/nectar sources as giant hyssop (Agastache); manzanita (Arctostaphylos), ceanothus (Ceanothus); California poppy (Eschscholzia), sunflower (Helianthus); and beard tongue (Penstemon).
It's all there--all there on the calendar.
Coville, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1978, has been photographing insects and spiders for more than 25 years. He is collaborating with Thorp and Frankie on a number of projects, including a book on urban bees. It's due out next year.
Ets-Hokin, a UC Berkeley zoology graduate, devotes her time to the public awareness and conservation of native bees. For the past several years, she has collaborated with the Alameda County Master Gardeners in establishing a native bee demonstration garden at Lake Merritt, Oakland.
Coville takes many of his images there and now he has Ets-Hokin hooked on photography.
Preview the calendar here. Want to order one or more? Go to the printer's website.
Writing for the Nature journal, Sharon Levy recently examined pollination studies that focus on the importance of pollinators and the plants they frequent.
Levy mentioned the work of conservation biologist Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley; Rachael Winfree, a pollination biologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.; and native pollinator specialist Neal Williams of UC Davis.
Williams led one of the studies that found that "most native bees are far less picky than was imagined," Levy wrote. The study showed that "bees collect pollen from both alien and native plants in proportion to a plant's abundance in the landscape," she related. "In highly disturbed habitats, bees make greater use of alien plants--not because the bees prefer them, but simply because introduced plants are far more common where people have transformed the landscape."
Last year Williams received a three-year federally funded research grant aimed at improving pollinator habitat plantings in nationwide agricultural settings. Williams said at the time:
“Recent declines in honey bee populations and the threat of losses in pollination service to economically important crops has raised awareness of the importance of restoring and conserving native bee diversity and abundance. We will be developing simplified assessment tools that will allow land stewards to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of future habitat restorations."
In 2000, the economic value of insect-pollinated crops in the United States was estimated at $18.9 billion.
Kremen, Winfree, Williams and Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, were among the specialists sharing their expertise at the 59th annual Entomological Society of America's meeting, held Nov. 13-16 in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
At one of the ESA seminars, Winfrey said that about 75 percent of the nation's crops require pollination, and that there are 20,000 species of native bees.
Kremen pointed out that "35 percent of the food we eat is pollinated by bees."
Vaughan, in emphazing the need to protect the pollinators, announced the Xerces Society's newest publication, Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies.
To attract native pollinators, the Xerces Society says that we need to:
--Ensure pollination in our gardens, orchards or farms.
--Identify the flower-visiting insects of our region.
--Provide host plants and nesting sites for bees and butterflies.
--Create a landscape that is beautiful, diverse and pollinator friendly.
Good advice. We all have a role to fulfill in attracting and protecting the pollinators.
So you want to attract native pollinators to your garden.
It offers a wealth of information, from identifying common bees of North America to helping you decide the best nectar-and-pollen plants for your garden.
The non-profit Xerces Society earlier announced that its Bumble Bee Garden Kit is available. The kit tells you how to attract bumble bees to your garden.
First the garden kit, then the book.
Bring on the pollinators!
It's good to see so much interest in native bees and native plants.
At the UC Davis Department of Entomology, we're frequently contacted by folks throughout the country asking what to plant to attract pollinators--native bees, honey bees (honey bees not native; European colonists brought them over here in 1622), and other pollinators.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has a wonderful list of native plants on its website. You click on your region and you'll be directed to a list.
If you poke around the Xerces Society website, you can find information on why native bee habitats are important and how to create native bee habitats. Also check out the pollinator handbook and the fact sheets.
Plant lists are available to download below in PDF format.
Xerces Society scientists just developed a first-of-its-kind conservation strategy summarizing the threats facing native bees in the diverse landscapes of Yolo County and identifying measures to protect them.
And what a great conservation--and conservation--piece this is.
Their 70-page paper, Yolo Natural Heritage Program Pollinator Conservation Strategy, is designed to protect such wild bees as bumble bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees, blue orchard bees and others. (You can download the paper from the Xerces Society Web site and from the Yolo Natural Heritage Program Web site.)
“Whether you manage roadsides or run a farm there are actions that you can take to improve the health of pollinators,” says Matthew Shepherd, Xerces Society senior conservation associate and co-author of the report. “Identifying and protecting floral resources can provide significant benefit to the native bees and other pollinators in Yolo County.”
The project, funded in part by a grant from the California Department of Fish and Game, provides land managers with information vital to "save the pollinators" of Yolo County. The county includes six major landscapes: agriculture, grasslands, woodlands, shrubland and scrub, riparian and wetland, and urban and barren.
As the scientists point out, some 60 to 90 percent of the world's flowering plants depend on animals for pollination, and most of these animals are insects.
"Research shows that native bees contribute substantially to the pollination of many crops, including watermelon, canola, sunflower, and tomatoes," the report says. "The value of crop pollination by native, wild bees in the United States is estimated at $3 billion. In Yolo County, extensive studies demonstrate the significant role of native pollinators in the economic viability of agriculture. In addition, native bees provide incalculable value as pollinators of native plants."
Among the many contributors to this report: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; and UC Berkeley conservation biologist Claire Kremen, an affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
This is a report well-worth reading, and even more importantly, following the measures listed to protect the health of our native bees. These beneficial insects need flowers for foraging and nest sites to raise their young. Some 70 percent of native bee species nest in the ground. Most of the others nest in cavities in trees or plant stems. "Bumble bees require a small cavity such as an abandoned rodent hole," the report indicates.
So, that black-faced bumble bee (Bombus californicus) that you see gathering pollen on a California poppy may go home to...well...a rat hole.
All the more reason to become more observant and pro-active of their needs.