The honey bees are hungry.
There are fewer flowers blooming this time of the year, so the bees are foraging for what they can.
This morning the bees were all over the lavender (Lavandula) in our yard. One bee, packing red pollen (probably from rock purslane), glided in, strapped herself to the lavender, and sipped the nectar from a floral "cup."
The bees are a little testy this time of the year. They're foraging for their winter stores as the days grow colder and shorter and the floral supply fades. "Honey bees don't forage when it is cool, below around 50 degrees," says bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk of the University of California, Davis.
To help support the declining bee population, it's crucial to offer the bees a year-around food supply, and that's exactly what the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the UC Davis, will do. A public open house is scheduled June 19.
Meanwhile, it was Red Letter Day today as the pollen-packing bee made her rounds.
Ever seen a tachinid tiptoeing through the lavender?
The tachinids are parasitic flies that lay their eggs in hosts such as Lepidoptera (butterfly) caterpillars.
As larvae, they live in and kill their hosts.
As adults, they sip nectar and other plant juices.
That's why you'll see the adults tiptoeing through the lavender, sage and mints.
The scenario is unforgettable. The soft, silken flowers contrast sharply with the insect's long, hairy bristles.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as entomologists are fond of saying.
This one (below) was exploring a lavender in our yard last weekend.
If it were six-feet tall, it would probably scare little children.
Except for future entomologists!
You may not know about Lavandula "Goodwin Creek Gray" but the honey bees do.
They love lavender.
That's one of the plants selected for the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden being implemented near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
The Goodwin Creek Gray, a cross between Lavandula dentata and Lavandula lanata is a hearty plant with lavender floral spikes and silvery-gray, sawtoothed leaves.
Ground preparation is under way, and the project should be completed and open to the public by Oct. 16.
A Sausalito team (landscape architects Ann Baker and Donald Sibbett, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard, and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki) submitted the winning design (online).
The garden will provide a year-around food source for honey bees and create awareness for the plight of the honey bee. Visitors can glean ideas for their own bee friendly gardens.
The plants will include such bee favorites as lavender, sage, tower of jewels, swamp sunflower, catmint, angelica, clover, California buckwheat, California honeysuckle, woodbine honeysuckle, passionflower vine, globe thistle, coral bells, dwarf plumbago, dwarf oregano, purple dome aster, Mexican daisy, silver carpet aster, deer weed and mother of thyme.
With such a smorgasbord to choose from, it will be interesting to see which blossoms the bees go to first.
I'm betting on four: lavender, sage, catmint and tower of jewels.
A field of dreams, for a honey bee, almost certainly would be a field of lavender.
Call it what you want, but if a bee could talk, it would probably be "lovely lavender."
When UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, guided a group of scientists from Ho Chi Minh City to commercial bee operations in the Central Valley, one of the stops was to Ann Beekman's lavender fields in Hughson, Stanislaus County.
Ann Beekman of Beekman and Beekman (beekeepers) grows lavender and keeps bees to produce honey, mead soaps and candles. She's featured in the UC Davis Small Farm Center’s book, Outstanding in Their Fields: California’s Women Farmers, which celebrates the achievements of 17 women farmers and ranchers.
Visiting the lavender fields is on my "honey-do" list, but presently, I'll have to be content capturing images of honey bees nectaring the lavender in our bee friendly garden.
And I'm eagerly awaiting the opening of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. A group of Sausalito residents submitted the winning design, which will be implemented this year. A public dedication is tentatively scheduled in October.
The honey bees will surely be as happy as we bee lovers. We all love lavender.
Insects love the lavender.
Think honey bees, syrphids, and carpenter bees.
The noisiest are the male carpenter bees. They buzz the lavender looking for females and then touch down for the nectar. They're quick, territorial, aggressive and noisy.
We see carpenter bees buzzing the garden as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 7:30 p.m.
The male carpenter bees, like drone honey bees, are all bluff and bluster. Only the females sting.