Today is Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014 the last day of the year.
Looking back, it was a year of wonder in our pollinator garden, a year filled with flourishing lavender, salvia, catmint, honeysuckle, lantana, passionflower vine, foxgloves, cosmos, California poppies, rock purslane, basil and oregano, with three towers of jewels (Echium wildpretii) anchoring the garden. The bees sipped nectar, praying mantids ate the bees, bluejays ate the praying mantids, and hawks ate the bluejays. As we watched the hawks splash in our birdbath, we wondered about the bees, jays and mantids that were all part of this circle of life that happened in our garden.
New Year's Eve. It's a time not to make resolutions, but renewals. It's a time to refocus and recharge; to sharpen the focus and recharge the batteries; to see Mother Nature snag a little more of Father Time.
So, Bug Squad on the last day of 2014 will include four photos of two Gulf Fritillaries becoming one. These Gulf Frits (Agraulis vanillae) provided us with eggs, larvae, chrysalids and more adults. They, along with the other pollinators that inhabit our garden, make our flowers complete, our garden complete and our lives complete.
May all your gardens be filled with the buzz, the flutter and the whirl of pollinators in 2015!
Happy New Year!
Good news for the honey bees!
And none too soon.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today (Oct. 29) in a press release that "more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees, which play an important role in crop production."
“The future of America's food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations,” Vilsack said in the USDA release. “Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area.”
The declining honey bee population is besieged with health issues, exacerbated by pests, parasites, pesticides, diseases, stress and malnutrition Nationally, however, honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. If you enjoy such produce as almonds, apples, cherries, cucumbers, and peaches, thank a bee for its pollination services.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing the effort on five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Why the Midwest? "From June to September, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter."
The announcement renews and expands what USDA calls "a successful $3 million pilot investment that was announced earlier this year and continues to have high levels of interest." It's all part of the June 2014 Presidential Memorandum – Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs.
Funding will be provided to producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications are due Friday, Nov. 21.
This means that the farmers and ranchers will receive support and guidance to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. This will include appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management. In addition to providing good forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators, the actions taken are expected to reduce erosion, increase soil health and inhibit invasive species.
California also will benefit. "This year, several NRCS state offices are setting aside additional funds for similar efforts, including California – where more than half of all managed honey bees in the U.S. help pollinate almond groves and other agricultural lands – as well as Ohio and Florida," according to the release.
A nice push for the pollinators!
We're almost midway through National Pollinator Week!
It's a week that we should celebrate every day.
Last weekend we spotted a newcomer to our backyard bee garden: a bumble bee species, Bombus fervidus, formerly known as Bombus californicus, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and bumble bee enthusiast Gary Zamzow of Davis.
The female was heading toward a purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, and then touched down in a "Queen-of-the-Mountain" moment.
This bumble bee species is commonly known as "the yellow bumble bee," according to the co-authors of the newly published Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide, authored by Paul Williams, Robbin Thorp, Leif Richardson and Sheila Colla (Princeton University Press).
It's widely spread across the continent. "Evidence from DNA barcodes supports a close relationship between individuals with the darker color pattern in the west (named californicus) and individuals with the lighter color patterns in the east (named fervidus)," they wrote.
Who knew? DNA./span>/span>
Did you count pollinators on Thursday, May 8?
That was "Be a Scientist Day," sponsored by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Day of Science and Service to commemorate 100 years of Cooperative Extension.
UC ANR asked that you take three minutes out of your day and count the honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies and other pollinators.
Amina Harris and Art Shapiro did.
In the Good Life Garden.
It's a little treasure located in the courtyard of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on the UC Davis campus.
The Good Life Garden's ever-changing edible landscape features lots of organic and sustainably grown vegetables, herbs and flowers--all for the faculty, students, staff, and visitors to enjoy.
And for pollinators, too.
Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, and Shapiro, a butterfly expert and distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, happened to be enjoying the garden at the same time.
The count: 150 honey bees, two yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) and one skipper butterfly. Most of them were foraging on the lavender or the catmint.
As a bonus, they saw dozens of lady beetles and immature lady beetles.
A good life. A very good life. A very good life in the Good Life Garden.
Do you now where the bees are?
On Thursday, May 8 let's all step outside for three minutes and count the honey bees and other pollinators.
It's all part of the "Day of Science and Service" sponsored by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
If you're lucky, you'll find multiple pollinators sharing a single flower. Maybe the foragers will all be honey bees, our prime pollinators!
We took this photo of four honey bees vying for the same spot on a pomegranate blossom. A hot spot.
It reminded us of humans fighting for a single parking space during the holiday season and then racing into a store and battling over a special gift (that will likely wind up at a garage sale in several months).
In this case, the reward was nectar. Sweet nectar.