Foxgloves, meet the European wool carder bee.
European wool carder bee, meet the foxgloves.
It's like "old home week" when these two get together. The plant (Digitalis purpurea) and the bee (Anthidium manicatum) are both native to Europe.
European wool carder bees, so named because the females collect or "card" leaf fuzz for their nests, were introduced in New York in 1963, and then began spreading west. They were first recorded in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) arrived in America 341 years before their cousins. European colonists brought the honey bee to America (Jamestown colony, Virginia) in 1622, but the honey bees didn't make it to California (San Jose area) until 1853.
Now they're together again, so to speak, but it's not a happy situation when a male wool carder bee spots a foraging honey bee.
Male European wool carder bees are very aggressive and territorial. They'll "bonk" other insects that land on "their" flowers such as lamb's ear, catmint and basil. They'll bodyslam honey bees, butterflies, sweat bees, carpenter bees, bumble bees and even a hungry praying mantis or an eight-legged spider (arachnid) or two. It's all about trying to save the floral resources for their own species so they can mate and reproduce.
One thing is certain: honey bees forage faster when those foxy male European wool carder bees buzz the garden.
They know each other well.
It's almost time to count the pollinators!
The University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) wants you set aside three minutes on Thursday, May 8 and count the pollinators wherever you live--and they live--in California. It's all part of UC ANR's Day of Science and Service celebrating the 100th year of the Cooperative Extension system.
First, count the pollinators (they can be bees, syrphid flies, bats, butterflies and the like.) Then you may choose to photograph them and upload your photos to the UC ANR website.
It should be interesting to glean the final count.
Just a few of the bees you may find:
- Honey bee (Apis mellifera)
- Green metallic sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus)
- European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)
- Long-horned bee (Melissodes communis)
Other activities on May 8 focus on water and food (see the website, Day of Science and Service)
Water: in this record drought, UC has committed to reducing its water consumption by 20 percent how are you conserving?
Food: Where is food grown in your community? Fill out our California food maps.
UC President Janet Napolitano has just issued the following statement:
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of our nation's Cooperative Extension system, the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is sponsoring a day of science and service on May 8.
We need your help to make our science projects successful. The more people who participate, the more data we'll have to analyze.
Everyone in California is invited to participate. It's quick and easy. Go to beascientist.ucanr.edu, choose a project, and record your observations about conserving water, growing food or counting the numbers of pollinating bees, birds and butterflies in your neighborhood. You can share your observations on an interactive map and upload photos if you like.
This is a great opportunity to learn about California's natural resources and the role of agriculture in all our communities.
For 100 years UC Cooperative Extension has been turning science into solutions to build healthy communities. From creating new varieties of fruits and vegetables, fighting off invasive pest attacks, and helping school kids learn about healthy eating, UC's work benefits every Californian.
The next time you're around a lamb's ear--no, not the animal, the plant (Stachys byzantina)--watch for buzzing bees.
Especially the European wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum). The females card the fuzz from the soft, silvery-gray leaves for their nests. Both the males and females sip nectar from the blossoms.
The males are quite territorial and bodyslam honey bees and other foraging insects. They're trying to save the sweet nectar for the females and mate with them.
It was windy this morning in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It didn't seem to bother the patrolling European wool carder bees. But their presence--and the body slams--bothered the honey bees.
The haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is open from dawn to dusk. There is no admission.
Don't ever call the European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) a slow poke. It's not "as fast as a speeding bullet" (Superman), but close.
The males, quite territorial, chase away other pollinators, including honey bees, sweat bees and butterflies.
The European wool carder bee gets it name from the fact that females collect or "card" leaf fuzz for their nests. Today we watched the bees sip nectar from our catmint blossoms and mate.
If you've never seen them in California, that's because they haven't been here that long. Originating from Europe, these bees became established in New York in 1963, and began spreading west. Bee scientists first recorded them in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
Like to attract them to your yard? Plant lamb's ear (Stachys byzantia) and catmint (Nepeta).
Talk about aggression. Talk about bullying. Talk about power maneuvers.
Ever seen male European wool carder bees (Anthidium manicutum) defend their territory? Ever seen them chase away other pollinators while they're hunting for prospective mates?
We've seen them target and bodyslam carpenter bees, alfalfa butterflies, leafcutter bees, sweat bees and honey bees while they're nectaring such blossoms as catmint, salvia and lamb's ear.
"Indeed, male wool carder bees are pretty aggressive in their hunt for females and in defense of their territories," commented native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Once the male carder bee spots a female of his own species, he quickly races up to mate with her. He is aggressive with her, too.
The wool carder bee, so named because the female "cards" or removes plant fuzz to line her nest, is a native of Europe. The species was introduced to the United States (New York) in 1963, and was first identified in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
So, it's a relatively newcomer engaging in old ways.
Fact is, the European wool carder bee and the honey bee grew up together in the Old World and now they're realigning in the New World. (European colonists brought the honey bee to America--Jamestown colony--in 1662.)
Last weekend we watched a particularly aggresive male European wool carder bee target a honey bee while she was nectaring catmint (Nepeta). He hovered in mid-air like a helicopter and then suddenly attacked. The force of the impact toppled him over. Then, she, too, collapsed from the blow.
She dropped through the catmint leaves and lingered there for a moment before cautiously emerging. Whoa! What was that? Then she quickly buzzed off.
Undaunted, the male circled where she'd been, looking for any sign of movement.
There will be another time.