Nice to see you!
That's how we greeted our very last bumble bee of 2016.
The yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, apparently came out of hibernation and started nectaring on mallow Nov. 14 at the Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz. We were at the park to see the overwintering monarch butterflies, but it was definitely delightful to see another insect species as well.
Ms. Bombus buzzed from one mallow to the other, keeping her distance from the two-legged park visitors. Once she nearly collided with an overwintering monarch heading for tropical milkweed blossoms.
B. vosnesenskii, native to the west coast of North America and found from British Columbia to Baja California, is an iconic pollinator and also an important pollinator for such crops as greenhouse tomatoes. It's among the bumble bees featured in the book, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University), the award-winning work of Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson and Sheila R. Colla.
When you click on the Princeton site, you'll hear the familiar buzz of bumble bees. It's just like encountering them in a wildflower meadow and listening to them take flight. It's a sound, unfortunately, that we're not hearing that much any more. The world's bumble bee population is declining, and some species are extinct or critically imperiled.
Speaking of bumble bees, did you see the paper, “Bumble Bees of Montana,” published this week by faculty and students in the Montana State University College of Agriculture in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America (AESA)? The scientists researched and compiled the state's first inventory of bumble bees known to live in Montana.
"The first time a bumble bee was recorded in Montana was in the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805," wrote Jenny Lavey of the MSU News Service.
Four scientists co-authored the paper:
- Michael Ivie, associate professor of entomology in the MSU Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology
- Kevin O'Neill, professor of entomology in the MSU Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences,
- Casey Delphia, MSU research scientist, and
- Amelia Dolan, former MSU entomology graduate student
"Because of Montana's size, landscape diversity and regional junction of eastern and western geographies, when it comes to bumble bees, Montana hosts a diverse, large and globally relevant community of species,” Ivie said in the news release. “Our research shows 28 different species of Bombus, with four more expected to make the list. That's the largest number of bumble bee species recorded for a state in the entire country."
Said Dolan: "It was amazing because we had people collecting specimens across the state, in varying elevations and diverse ecosystems – areas we alone wouldn't have had access to in the time that we had to complete the project. The number of species is representative of Montana's wild spaces and diverse landscapes that host these bees."
When was Bombus vosnesenskii first recorded in Montana? In 1923 (Frison).
If you want to hear more about bumble bees and other bees (some 1600 species of bees reside in California), be sure to attend a free two-hour presentation on "Bee Aware Bee Cause" at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 7 by Robbin Thorp at the Rush Ranch Nature Center, 3521 Grizzly Island Road, Suisun. A worldwide expert on bees, Thorp is a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who continues his research, writings and bee identification work. (See information on the event on previous Bug Squad blog.)
Specifically, California bees and blooms.
Even more specifically, undomesticated bees (that is, not honey bees).
Did you know that:
- Of the 4000 undomesticated bee species in the United States, some 1600 species are found in California?
- Seventy percent of bees nest in the ground, and 30 percent in pre-existing cavities?
Like honey bees, native bees are declining due to pesticides, habitat destruction and fragmentation, global climate change, drought and other extreme weather events, and lack of nutrition.
Native pollinator specialist Thorp, a Bohart Museum associate, is a distinguished emeritus professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and also the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press). He retired in 1994 after 30 years of teaching, research and mentoring graduate students but continues his research on pollination biology and ecology, systematics, biodiversity, and conservation of bees, especially bumble bees. Among his special interests: native bees of the vernal pool ecosystem.He maintains his office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
Native bee expert Frankie is a professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley. His specialty is behavioral ecology of solitary bees in wildland, agricultural, and urban environments of California and Costa Rica. More information on his projects can be found at www.helpabee.org. See also the Bay Nature interview.
Coville, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, is a noted insect and spider photographer. Check out the photos on his website. Coville also has a strong interest in the biology and behavior of Hymenoptera and has published papers on Trypoxylon wasps and Centris bees.
Ertter is curator of Western North American Botany at the University and Jepson Herbaria, UC Berkeley. Primary research interests include western floristics (including the East Bay), systematics of several members of the rose family (that is,, Potentilla, Ivesia, Rosa), and the history of western botany.
California Bees and Blooms showcases 22 of the most common genera (and six species of cuckoo bees). You can learn about their distinctive behavior, social structure, flight season, preferred flowers (there are more than 6500 flowering species or angiosperms in California), and enemies, such as praying mantids.
The some 200 photos in the book will help you identify native bees, such as the bumble bee and carpenter bee below. We found these foraging in our backyard pollinator garden.
It's so blond that all you can say is "Wow!" It's sort of like the Reese Witherspoon of bumble bees. But then the gender doesn't match. Okay, the Owen Wilson of bumble bees.
The male Bombus vandykei, commonly called "The Van Dyke Bumble Bee," is a treasure for three reasons, not necessarily in this order: (1) it's a pollinator (2) it's a bumble bee and (3) it's the color of golden wheat.
We spotted a male Bombus vandykei foraging in our lavender patch last night around 6. Its color reminded us of two other bees: the male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta), a green-eyed blond bee nicknamed "The Teddy Bear Bee"; and the blondest of the blond honey bees, the Italian Cordovan. The Italian, Apis mellifera ligustica, is a subspecies of the European or Western honey bee, Apis mellifera.
The Van Dyke Bumble Bee gets around. The species is found in the Pacific Coastal states, including Washington, Oregon and California. The boys are extensively blond, but the girls aren't. In fact, the females are often confused with the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and the black-faced bee, Bombus californicus.
Bombus vandykei is one of about 250 described species of bumble bees worldwide. All belong to the genus, Bombus.
Want to know more about bumble bees and how to identify them? Be sure to pick up a copy of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press), co-authored by bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, and fellow scientists Paul Williams, Leif Richardson and Sheila Colla. It won a 2015 Outstanding Reference Sources Award, Reference and User Services Association, American Library Association.
If you click on the Princeton University link, http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10219.html, you'll hear the buzz. That's the buzz of bumble bees beckoning us to listen to them.
The next time you see a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) packing pollen, check out the color.
Last Saturday on an outing in Vallejo overlooking the Carquinez Straits, we noticed a yellow-faced bumble bee on an Echium candicans (Pride of Madeira) packing red pollen, as brilliant as a sun-ripened strawberry.
It probably picked up the red pollen from the nearby California golden poppies--not from the Echium because Echium pollen is a bluish/lavender.
The yellow-faced bumblebee, so called because of its yellow face, is native to the west coast of North America. In the global line-up, it's one of some 250 species of bumble bees--all within the genera Bombus, which is Latin for buzzing or humming.
Bombus vosnesenkii is easily identifiable by its yellow face and the yellow stripe or band at the T4 segment of its thorax.
Want to learn more about bumble bees and how to identify them? Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, co-authored the landmark publication, Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide (Princeton University Press) with Paul Williams, Leif Richardson and Sheila Colla. It won a 2015 Outstanding Reference Sources Award from the Reference and User Services Association, American Library Association.
There's increasing interest in bumble bees--and rightfully so--due to the critical role they play in our ecosystems. Bumble Bees of North America is described as "the first comprehensive guide to North American bumble bees to be published in more than a century."
We haven't seen many bumble bees this year, but as spring temperatures warm up and blossoms beckon, they'll be out there foraging.
Graced with many colors of pollen.
It's a delight to see boy bumble bees sleeping overnight in the lavender.
Two species of bumble bees--Bombus vosnesenkii and Bombus californicus--have been slumbering in our lavender for the past several weeks. Sometimes they nestle a half inchs from one another and other times they're a foot or more apart.
Usually the honey bees began foraging in the lavender before they do.
The yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and the black-faced bumble bee, Bombus californicus, are two of the bees featured in Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide, published by the Princeton University Press and authored by Paul Williams, Robbin Thorp, Leif Richardson and Sheila Colla.
Thorp, a native pollinator specialist and distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. says there are 20,000 species of bees worldwide, and of that number, only 250 belong to the genus Bombus or bumble bees.
Several species of bumble bees in our bee garden seem to prefer the English lavender. They forage, they mate, and they sleep.
The females sleep in their underground nests at night, while the males sleep on the lavender stems.
They are a joy to have around--underground and above ground!