First you give them roots, then you give them wings.
That's what's happening in our bee condo, a wooden block (nest) with drilled holes for leafcutting bees (Megachile).
They flew in, laid their eggs, provisioned the nests with pollen and leaf fragments, and capped the holes.
We had 11 tenants. Now there's a hole in one.
Success! A leafcutting bee emerged. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says that "Some leafcutting bees, especially the introduced ones like the alfalfa leafcutting bee, have more than one generation per year. Bees of the second and third generation may clean out or partly clean out old nest holes like this and construct a new nest inside. Sometimes you can find new leaf material inside the old cocoon of the previous nest builder. Thus, the tunnels get smaller in diameter with succeeding generations. Kind of like the build up of old cocoons in honey bee comb and resulting smaller inner diameter of the brood cells in old dark comb."
It's all rather exciting being a "beekeeper." We've never had a hole in one--'til now.
If you, too, want to keep native bees, Thorp has compiled a list of where you can buy homes for them or where you can learn how to build your own. The list is on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research facility website.
You can also buy them at beekeeping supply stores.
Now that we have a hole in one, 10 tenants to go...
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.
Folks accustomed to seeing only honey bees (which are non-natives) buzzing around their yard probably aren't aware that in the United States alone there are some 4000 identified species of native bees.
And they probably aren't aware of The Bee Course.
That's a workshop offered for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees. It's held annually in Portal, Ariz. in the Chiricahua Mountains at the Southwest Research Station of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). This year's dates are Aug. 22-Sept. 1.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and active in the Xerces Society, has taught at The Bee Course since 2002.
The course, led by Jerry Rozen of AMNH, has been operating continuously since 1999, Thorp said, and UC Davis graduates are very much involved. Steve Buchmann who received his Ph.D. at UC Davis in 1978, is one of the instructors. Ron McGinley who received his undergraduate degree at UC Davis, does most of the initial student contact and scheduling for the course, Thorp said.
"There are usually about eight instructors and 22 participants for the 10- day course," Thorp said. "Most of the time is spent in the lab identifying bees to genus. At least three days are spent in the field so students can see various bees doing their thing, collect them and bring them back to the lab to ID them. It is a great experience for students to interact with instructors and especially with their peers from round the world."
"Instructors all donate their time to teach in the course, but benefit from the chance to get together with colleagues and a new cohort of interesting students each year. Every class is different--that is, it takes on its own personality--and each student brings something new and different to the mix."
More locally, Thorp will speak Sunday, March 7 on the amazing diversity of native bees at the 2010 Bee Symposium, sponsored by the Santa Rosa-based Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PFSP). He'll discuss their nesting habits and nest site requirements. The symposium takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Subud Center, 234 Hutchins Ave., Sebastopol.
The fourth annual conference will offer updates and new perspectives on honey bees and native pollinators, according to PFSP executive director Kathy Kellison.
It's good to see the focus on native bees as well as honey bees. For more information on native bees, be sure to check out the Xerces Society Web site and UC Berkeley's Native Bee Gardens.
Humans aren't the only calendar pin-up models.
Think native bees.
Think the 2010 Native Bees Calendar.
The Xerces Society and the Great Sunflower Project have joined forces to produce a calendar showcasing 12 commonly found native bees. You'll be able not only to to identity them, but to learn more about them, such as the plants they prefer and their nesting needs.
What are these two organizations?
The Great Sunflower Project, led by San Francisco State University associate professor Gretchen LeBuhn, "empowers people from pre-schoolers to scientists to make the world a better place for bees. The idea is simple; gardeners plant a sunflower and time how long it takes for five bees to visit. Gardens that quickly see bees are healthy. Gardens that don’t see bees aren’t. The sunflowers are both a thermometer measuring the health of the bee community across the continent and a wonderful resource making each garden where they are planted a better place for bees."
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., is "an international nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the diversity of life through the protection of invertebrates and their habitats," says Xerces Society senior conservation associate Matthew Shepherd. The group "works at the forefront of invertebrate protection, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of local citizens to implement conservation and education programs with a focus on endangered species, aquatic invertebrates, and pollinators."
One of the nation’s leading native bee conservation organizations, the Xerces Society provides advice and information to gardeners, land owners, farmers, agency staff and other interested persons.The native bee photos are by noted insect photographer Rollin Coville, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1978. His close-ups are truly magnificent. (You can also see more of his work on his Web site.) Coville collaborates with scientists Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley and Robbin Thorp of UC Davis on a number of projects involving the study of urban bees. Their work recently appeared in the California Agriculture journal.
Shepherd tells us the story behind the story. "Celeste Ets-Hokin, a bee enthusiast in the San Francisco Bay area, came up with the idea and pursued it. At Xerces, we've considered doing a calendar but had always shied away from it because of the time involved. Celeste took the idea to Gretchen LeBuhn, who was looking for fundraising ideas for the Great Sunflower Project. The calendar is really their project and they should get credit for it."
Shepherd modestly says his contribution "has been to answer Celeste's steady stream of questions."
Well done, and for two good causes.
And who says bees can't be pin-up models?
Chances are if you walked up to a group of people and asked "Have you seen a Megachile today?" they'd stare at you blankly.
What's a Megachile? It's a native bee, also known as a leafcutter bee.
When most people think about bees, they think about honey bees, which are native to Europe.
They don't think of the some 4000 bee species native to the United States. Of that number, about 1600 species are found in California.
Enter Jaime Pawelek of UC Berkeley's Department of Organisms and the Environment, a researcher who works in professor Gordon Frankie's lab. She discussed “Native California Bees: Looking for Cheap Urban Real Estate” at the Nov. 6 meeting of the Northern California Entomology Society meeting in Concord.
The "real estate," as Frankie related earlier in an e-mail, "refers mostly to the flowers that people use in their gardens."
Pawelek, who received her bachelor of science degree in conservation and resource studies from UC Berkeley, showed slides of numerous native bees, including a metallic green bee (Agapostemon texanus), long-horned bees (Melissodes sp), yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus sp.), leafcutting bee (Megachile sp.), and a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus spp.), not to mention the sweat, squash and orchid bees.
Most native bees (in fact, more than 70 percent) nest in the ground, Pawelek said. And, most native bees are solitary nesters. Some native bees are as tiny as a grain of rice.
Native bees are adept at pollinating specific crops, including blueberries, tomatoes and alfalfa, Pawelek said.
What should concern us: the decline in the diversity and abundance of native bees. "Causes for the decline may include," she said, "pesticide use, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and global climate change."
Although past studies have focused on agricultural or wildland habits, urban areas can also serve as habitat of native bees. In fact, initial research by the Gordon Frankie lab found 82 bee species in Berkeley alone, and of that number, 78 were native bee species.
In 2003, the Frankie lab set up the Oxford Tract Experimental Garden in Berkeley with a main goal of monitoring the diversity and abundance of bee species visiting an urban garden, Pawelek said.
In 2003 they planted some 16 species, including sunflowers, cosmos and sage. In 2005, the garden contained 40 plant species. Today it's swelled to more than 130 plant species.
To date, the researchers have collected a total of 37 bee species in the experimental garden alone. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor, UC Davis, identifies them. "He's our bee taxonomist," Pawelek said.
In monitoring the bee-plant associations--now a primary component of their research--they found that native bees forage at native plants more often than non-native plant species, and certain plant families are highly attractive to bees. These include Asteracae (aster family), Lamiaceae (mint family) and Polygonaceae (knotweed family).
Their research takes them to urban diversity sites throughout California. Some sites are community gardens, residential gardens and neighborhood parks. Others: cemeteries and weedy lots.
Information collected at each site includes bee abundance and diversity, bee species identification, bee-plant associations, seasonality of bees and plant resources.
If you want to plant a bee friendly garden, here are some tips. It's important to offer diversity--include at least 20 plant species, Pawelek said. Cluster flowers of the same species in the same patch. Be sure to leave bare dirt for nesting purposes (unlike gardeners, bees don't like mulch). Also, provide wood blocks for cavity nesters. To make a "bee condo," drill holes of various sizes in untreated wood.
You may also want to consider what California Academy of Sciences did: a roof-top garden. The academy maintains a "green roof" using many native California bee plants.
If you'd like to design an urban bee garden or just want to know more about native bees and what flowers to plant, check out Frankie's comprehensive and exceedingly well done Web site.
Better yet, bookmark it! It's a winner!/span>