We just met a male black-faced bumble bee, Bombus californicus.
It was early morning and he was resting on a blanket flower (Gaillardia), a brilliant member of the sunflower family. When you're a bee, a blanket flower offers both bed and breakfast.
Gaillardia was named after M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, an 18th-century French magistrate who was a patron of botany, according to Wikipedia. "The common name may refer to the resemblance of the inflorescence to the brightly patterned blankets made by Native Americans."
The bumble bee species, a native, takes its name from California. Unlike the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, its face is black and long. (Except when it's covered with golden pollen.)
Authors Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn in their newly published book, The Bee Friendly Garden, note that unlike honey bees, bumble bees can fly in "cold rainy weather...They have several physiological adaptations that allow them to fly in bad weather, including the ability to shiver to raise their body temperature."
Frey, a world-class garden designer and LeBuhn, a bee expert and professor at San Francisco State University, offer advice on how to attract bumble bees and other pollinators to your garden. They quote native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: And Identification Guide and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners.
What we know is this: it's good to have bed and breakfast for a bumble bee. Much of the bumble bee population is declining and we all need to do what we can to protect them and provide for them.
Possession is nine-tenths of the law.
It also applies to bees foraging on lavender.
A black-faced bumble bee (Bombus californicus) this morning stretched between two lavender stems and lingered there--probably to warm its wings for flight. Along comes a honey bee (Apis mellifera) interested only in foraging for nectar.
The bumble bee holds its ground--or the stems.
The honey bee glances over at the yoga pose, sips some nectar, and buzzes off--this time probably hoping for an unoccupied blossom.
So, what does "possession is nine-tenths of the law" really mean?
Says Wikipedia: "Although the principle is an oversimplification, it can be restated as: 'In a property dispute (whether real or personal), in the absence of clear and compelling testimony or documentation to the contrary, the person in actual, custodial possession of the property is presumed to be the rightful owner."
When we left the lavender patch, the bumble bee was still in possession. But they did share. Momentarily.
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!
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>
Every once in a while you see it.
And it's a real treat--especially when it's a bee garden that's synonomous with treat.
We tracked the black-faced bumble bee (Bombus californicus) in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly demonstration garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Her nectaring preferrence left no doubt: grey musk sage (Salvia "Pozo Blue"). She serendipitously posed by the identification label.
Another bumble bee species common to the garden is the yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii).
But only Bombus californicus posed.
The garden, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, is open from dawn to dusk. There's no admission. It's a joy to walk the paths featuring vegetables, fruits, nuts (almonds) and ornamentals.
Just don't forget to bring your camera.
Bombus californicus might pose for you.